Four Simple Steps to Dealing with Anxiety
By Christie Vernon Anxiety. Defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something uncertain, it is a normal, and even healthy, part of life. Developed as a means of survival, anxiety no longer serves the purpose of warning of nearby predators. Instead, it has become a pervasive and persistent part of modern life, especially for teenagers. Girls are almost twice as likely as boys to suffer from anxiety disorders, with some studies showing that at age 6, female children are already twice as likely to have experienced deep anxiety. But this particular article is not meant to explore why girls experience more anxiety. Instead, it will focus on solutions; studies show that by their senior year of high school, adolescent girls and boys cope differently, the latter being more successful in reducing fear and anxiety. This article is meant to help remedy that by presenting this short collection of tips for whenever you feel anxious, no matter the circumstances.
Discussing vs. Dwelling:
Talking about your anxiety is an important part of coping; bottling up emotions has never helped anyone. Yet, frequently talking about your negative moods is linked with higher levels of depression, stress, and even insomnia. If you find yourself mentioning your anxiety in every conversation, make a conscious effort to talk about other things instead. Similarly to how smiling often can trick your brain into being happier, discussing positive things can help your mood change for the better. You must find the balance between discussing how you feel, and dwelling on the negative. Additionally, do not trip into the pitfall of thinking your anxious feelings define you - they aren’t you, nor are they permanent. They’re simply a feeling that you can learn to overcome.
Identifying Your Triggers:
The most successful method of tackling anxiety is Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, which consists of figuring out what stresses you out and why, and then changing your thoughts and behaviour accordingly. Try this out on yourself: as you go through your day, observe what bothers you, and why. For instance, your trigger may be raised voices, crowded spaces, or not knowing what will happen next. Be honest with yourself, no matter how silly the trigger seems. It’s perfectly normal to be stressed out by “small” things, and self-awareness is the first step to healing.
Face Your Fears, Proactively:
Now that you know what your triggers are, challenge them. A hallmark symptom of anxiety is going to great lengths to avoid stressful situations, but research shows that that is a sign of a problem, not a way of dealing with it. Slowly expose yourself to that which provokes your anxiety. For instance, if you are scared of how others perceive you, join a public speaking club, or start voicing your opinions more in class. Be proactive about your fears; if you feel rushed and like there is never enough time, plan out your days in advance, or set timers so you do not spend too much time on any one task.
It may sound simplistic, but always remember to breathe. If you feel yourself begin to fray, and sense a panic attack coming on, remember to take a deep breath. The method often employed in meditation is counting to four when inhaling, holding your breath for four counts, then exhaling for another four. Whenever you are facing an anxious situation, focus on this pattern. Breathing deeply will calm your heart rate, oxygenate your brain, and bring you a sense of calm. Another way to get the same effect is to be active. If it is possible to do so, taking a brisk walk or doing some stretching is very helpful in reducing feelings of anxiety. These four tips are obviously not the only ways to address stress, but they are among the most straightforward. Addressing a more personal perspective, I have been dealing with anxiety for my entire life, so these methods are tried-and-true. However, if you feel it is greatly impacting your life, consider seeing a professional. Make sure it is someone you are comfortable with, and who employs techniques that truly help; for instance, I find exposure therapy the most helpful. And remember, every problem has a solution.