There are thousands of things to worry about every day. It’s easy to get caught up in the stresses of the day and let them build up until you have an anxiety attack. Going around in a constant state of anxiety can prevent you from taking part in your life.
Instead of waiting until you have an anxiety attack, there are many techniques you can use to manage your anxiety and prevent it from getting out of hand.
The best thing you can do is practice mindfulness and incorporate calmness into all parts of your life. After all, it’s much easier to prevent anxiety attacks from happening than it is to calm down from them.
Here are some techniques that will help you stay calm when you incorporate them into your daily routine.
Daily Breathing Meditations
Deep breathing is a great tool for reducing growing feelings of anxiety. It’s one of the simplest tools to use, and you don’t need any specialized knowledge to do it. When you breathe deeply, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system, signaling to your brain that you are no longer in danger and can relax.
There are many ways you can add deep breathing to your daily routine. Find something that works for you. If you need someone to walk you through a meditation, there are thousands of guided meditations online that range from a few minutes to a few hours. Or, if you feel like you don’t have much time during the day, you can sneak some breathing into your routine. Practice 5-10 deep breaths right as you’re waking up, or as you are trying to fall asleep. Even if you can only focus on your breath for a few minutes a day, your anxiety levels will become more manageable as you include purposeful breathing in your routine.
Live in the Present
Along with getting control of your breath, focusing on bringing yourself to the present is a great way to tackle your anxieties. When we’re feeling anxious, it’s very likely we aren’t in the present moment, between worrying about a test you’re taking next week to being scared to going on a date, or replaying old failures in your mind, asking “Would that scenario have gone differently?”
Spending too much time in the past can create a lot of pain and longing, while focusing too much on the future can cause you to worry about things that aren’t even guaranteed to happen.
Worrying about the past, or about the future isn’t going to do anything to change them. It can feel impossible to get your mind off of these situations, but the more you can focus being on the present, the easier it will be for you to stay calm.
One of the best ways to focus on the present is to focus on your senses. What are you touching? What do you smell? What do you see in your environment? What sorts of sounds do you hear? If you’re having a hard time staying present, it can help to say what you sense out loud.
Be aware of your anxious thoughts
Anxiety is uncomfortable and no one wants to experience it. However, in order to effectively deal with them, you need to be aware of what is going on. You need to know what sorts of thoughts are racing through your mind before you can address them.
Mindfulness based approaches are incredibly helpful in treating depression and anxiety. In fact, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy has been shown to reduce mental relapse by 50%. This sort of therapy works by helping you become aware of your anxious thoughts rather than trying to fix them. Being able to see your thoughts without immediately reacting to them can take away some of the power that anxiety holds over you. Instead of reacting right away, you can process what’s going on and figure out the best way to deal with the situation.
Being aware of your thoughts is another way to practice mindfulness. Many people might think they have to completely get rid of their thoughts in order to meditate. This practice often isn’t helpful or attainable. Instead, being mindful of your anxiety means observing your thoughts without passing judgement.
There are many ways you can practice being aware of your thoughts. Some people visualize their thoughts as passing clouds and identify them as they go by. Others observe their life as if it were a movie and analyze what is happening instead of reacting right away.
Find Activities You Enjoy
Obsessing over future worries and past mistakes will quickly blow your anxiety out of proportion. Sometimes, despite your best efforts to breathe or be mindful of your anxiety, you can’t get your mind off of it. When this happens, it can be helpful to try to distract yourself from what is happening.
In a 2009 study, 74% of patients reported that knitting helped lessen their anxiety. Those patients found relief from their fears while knitting.
If knitting isn’t your thing, you can try any of the infinite hobbies out there. Find something that relaxes you and gives you a sense of accomplishment. Some people have found that painting and journaling helps them get control over their anxiety, while others find relief in exercise. Do what you love, and watch your anxiety lessen.
Identify the Worst Case Scenario
If you truly feel you cannot get a grip on your anxious thoughts, there is a technique you can use to lessen anxiety’s power over you. Most of that power comes from stressing about the unknown. Anxiety can ask a lot of “what if” questions and not provide any answers.
One therapist has found that focusing on the worst case scenario can actually help patients control their anxieties. Most anxious people think a lot about the worst thing that could happen, but they don’t follow those thoughts all the way through.
For example, a lot of people feel anxiety about giving presentations. The absolute worst thing that could happen in your presentation is that you feel so anxious and embarrassed that you die on the spot. Instead of leaving the thought there, take it further. How likely is it that this situation will happen? It’s probably more or less impossible. Then, other more likely outcomes don’t seem particularly bad when compared to your absolute worst outcome. Having this kind of perspective when it comes to anxiety can help lessen its impact and give you more ability to face potential outcomes.
You don’t have to live in constant worry about when your next anxiety attack will happen. Instead, you can implement some of these strategies to lessen your overall feeling of anxiety and prevent times of panic and fear.