You know the feeling: you wake up in the middle of the night with a knot in your chest. You’re unbearably anxious, but about what? Maybe it hits you while you’re driving, watching traffic merge onto the freeway or negotiating uncontrolled intersections. Maybe it comes when you meet new people or enter new experiences. Today, anxiety is one of the most common disorders to affect adults in the U.S. Approximately 40 million people age 18 and older suffer from anxiety disorders right now.Fortunately, anxiety and fear are both highly treatable, and people who suffer from either can often find relief through a mixture of at-home and clinical remedies. While only about 1/3 of the people currently suffering from anxiety get treatment, individuals who want to reduce their fear and anxiety can learn some helpful tips in this article.
What is Anxiety?Anxiety is a feeling of intense nervousness or unease. It commonly affects people when the outcome of something is uncertain, or the environment is unfamiliar. While everyone experiences worry, anxiety is a different sensation and may be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as gastrointestinal upset, tension in the chest, a loss of appetite, nausea, or even vomiting.
7 Sure-Fire Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Fear TodayIf you suffer from anxiety or fear in your daily life, follow these seven tips to begin reducing it:
1. Practice breathing exercisesBreathing is a powerful tool that can have a massive effect on the brain’s “fight or flight” response. In fact, taking long, slow breaths can help decrease stress, stimulate the vagus nerve (which mediates the “fight or flight” response in the nervous system and lowers heart rate), and lower blood pressure and heart rate. The next time you’re feeling anxious, focus on your breathing. Take several long, slow exhales (of at least 3 seconds in length), and then move into long, slow exhales which take at least seven seconds to complete. After about four or five of these, you’ll notice your anxiety beginning to ebb, and your heart rate and body systems returning to normal.
2. Practice visualizationPart of the reason that anxiety is so powerful is that it drags the brain into a loop. Instead of focusing on the good of a situation or experience, people who suffer from anxiety get caught in a loop of negative and frightening thinking. Fortunately, you can pull yourself out of this by practicing visualization.Visualization is simple. When your head starts to spin, and you get fearful, practice imagining the situation in your mind. Instead of focusing on what will be frightening or painful about it, visualize it going well, and imagine yourself navigating it calmly. While this will help calm your mind in the short-term, it can also contribute to improving the outcome of the situation in real life by allowing you to prepare for it in advance.
3. Activate the thinking side of your brainAnxiety and fear are emotional responses, and it’s easy to short-circuit them by asking the thinking (rather than the emotional) side of our brains to take over. Here are a few simple ways to do this:
- The next time you’re anxious, place it on a scale from 1-10, with ten being incredibly fearful and one being relaxed. This does two things: it forces you to take an aerial view of your anxiety by putting a number on it, and it allows you to begin thinking about your fear in a rational way, which in turn allows you to combat it.
- Ask yourself some simple questions. Questions like “Am I making this worse than it is?” “Is this fear grounded in reality?” “Am I overreacting?” “What can I do to fix this?” will go a long way toward allowing you to get a grip on your anxiety and look at it from a rational standpoint.
- Ask yourself if you can worry your way to a solution. Some problems can be thought through to the point of a solution. In other situations, though, this will just drive you crazy. If you can’t “worry yourself to an answer,” let it go and try your best to take proactive steps to combat it down the road.
4. Practice being AWAREAWARE is an acronym people who treat anxiety use to describe the process of moving through the fear and dread. Here’s what it stands for:
- A: Accept the anxiety and understand that fighting it will only make it worse
- W: Watch the anxiety and notice how it ebbs and flows, rises and falls. Don’t get attached to holding onto it or “making” it go away.
- A: Act like you normally would. If you panic, your mind will go right along with you. If you stay calm and act like nothing is wrong, though, you mitigate your panic response and enhance your reasoning capabilities.
- R: Repeat the “A-W-A” steps as frequently as you need to get the feeling under control.
- E: Expect that your anxiety will melt away soon.