Reducing and managing an anxiety disorder is no easy feat, something I have experienced myself and again it really is something very individual and personal to each person. Let me share with you some techniques I have found helpful to keep my anxiety under control.
How to reduce anxiety: Acknowledgement of fear
I spoke a bit before in my previous blog "What is anxiety disorder" about how it can feel living with anxiety; that fear that is unprecedented and unexplainable. For a while, you might not know what is happening, and for some (like me) it might take you by surprise. I didn't acknowledge my anxiety disorder until it became more frequent. Anxiety is fed by fear, I had to understand what my primary fears were:
Why didn't I want to leave the house?
What am I scared is going to happen?
What's the worst thing that could happen?
I have discovered my fear, I have acknowledged and claimed that fear, making it more bearable. Unlike a fear of heights or spiders, you can’t simply ignore an anxious fear, its usually something debilitating that interferes with everyday life. For me, my fear is being sick or ill in a public place or in front of people, if I was to apply the same logic to that as my fear of heights, I would just simply have to avoid being in the presence of any people or any place, which is where I ended up.
It might sound very silly to some and even to me! I don’t know where it came from or when it started.
How to reduce anxiety: Understanding "Fight or Flight"
A person who suffers from an anxiety disorder will often adopt the “fight or flight” response. This is a biological response the human body will kick start when we are put in a life or death situation. An anxious person will feel this response when faced with a situation out of their control or when their fear is apparent in a particular atmosphere whether that be a life and death situation or a trip to the shops. Our brains are not designed to deal with the level of stress we now feel on a daily basis and it will react against it. This pattern of stress causes our brains to feel overwhelmed and what seems like an everyday task is now extremely stressful for those who suffer anxiety. Taking the time to understand your surrounding and asking yourself "is my life in danger" can substantially calm you down for a short period of time.
How to reduce anxiety: Lists
Writing lists helps to reduce anxiety by splitting up the job/day into manageable sections and gives a sense of pride in completion.
Getting into a routine of mapping out your tasks or actions keeps you grounded. Seeing your day in an organised and achievable manner can create a calming effect and after finishing a task, whether it be getting items from the shop, making a phone call or writing this blog, a relaxing “I’ve done that” feeling follows.
An accomplishment truly does allow you to take more control and compartmentalize your day into digestible sections.
How to reduce anxiety: Distraction
When thinking about the immediate effects of anxiety such as an attack, slowing your mind down is crucial. You become very aware that no one can see you are panicking and that is almost worse because you then give yourself the added pressure of “remaining normal”. Tactics such as listing things you can see, feel and smell really help to occupy your brain. I tend to start singing, talking or humming, engaging in something else allows me to stay grounded. Doing something physical and setting yourself a task often allows you to remind your brain that you are in control.
How to reduce anxiety: Journaling
I started keeping a diary in university (when I was at my worst). I made a promise to myself to write in it every day even if I had nothing of worth to say. It got me in the habit of letting go of my day and keeping track of my feelings. What I enjoyed most about my diary was to look back and read. I know a lot of people choose not to do this, my roommate would often burn her pages as a symbol of “Letting go” but even now, I like to read back and think “really?” I can see my growth as a person through what I was writing and that strength has carried me a long way.
It one of the reasons I wrote the Discovery Journal, it hopes that I can encourage novice writers to take a chance on the method. To learn more read our previous blog Journals for mental health