Sweaty palms, an erratic heartbeat, shortness of breath. Anxiety doesn’t need to get the best of you.
Feeling uncomfortable or anxious is common when dealing with various situations in the workplace such as a serious conversation with your boss, public speaking or a personal matter, such as awaiting the results of a loved one’s cancer scans or supporting a new mother in your life with postnatal depression.
“Be patient with yourself. Feelings—from happiness, to extreme stress and anxiety—are normal and are your body’s way of signaling that you may need to slow down and tap into yourself. Observe your emotions and be kind to yourself.”
Feeling anxious and nervous is your body’s natural fight-or-flight response to stress factors, preparing your body to run quickly or fight off a potential threat. The typical shaky hands and other neurological and cardiovascular reactions that release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can help you when you are actually in a dangerous situation. The problem is that when such stress reactions reoccur and the body has no way to release the tension (such as by actually running quickly away from a real threat), the stress has been shown to get lodged into the body and can cause long-term damage.
What is anxiety
Anxiety is related to the perception and anticipation of a threat, resulting in excessive feelings of unease, nervousness and worry. Extreme anxiety can result in anxiety attacks, which are acute feelings that can include paranoia, an inability to speak and interact with other. While the triggers for anxiety vary from person-to-person, for many, the perceived threat turns out not to be a real threat after all when the person takes a moment to pause and reflect on their worries.
Just as important as stress management, managing your emotions and reactions to curb anxiety is very important for your long term health and well-being. These tips will help you step into the temporary discomfort that anxiety brings, and help you feel better.
Tips for coping with anxiety
- Remember to breathe
Meditation and breathing exercises have been practiced for thousands of years to help people relax, feel more balanced and less stressed. Throughout your feelings of anxiety, be mindful and present with the feelings you are experiencing and accept them for what they are. Feeling guilty or blaming yourself for feeling anxious will only make you feel worse.
Try this exercise: With your eyes open or closed, sit up straight, rest your hands on your lap and practice rhythmic and circular breathing. Breathe in for the count of four, hold the breath for 1-2 seconds, then breathe out for 4 seconds, and hold the breath for another 1-2 seconds. Proceed through this exercise for at least 10 cycles.
- Get enough sleep
A good night’s sleep is essential to resting both your body and mind. Not getting enough sleep has been linked with the increased risk of depression, anxiety, decreased mental capacity and patience. While there is an unhealthy trend in certain industries to work 15+ hours a day and show off about your ability to function on little sleep, getting enough sleep has become a hot topic, even competitive Silicon Valley (did you know that entrepreneur Arianna Huffington even wrote a book about the importance of sleep?!). If your job is getting the best of you, perhaps you need to approach developing a healthier work life balance.
Try this exercise: If you are having trouble falling asleep, try a few cycles of breathing exercises and avoiding eating heavy meals and processed foods at least two hours before getting into bed.
- Prioritize fitness & physical activities
Many fitness experts recommend a minimum of 6o minutes of daily, physical movement, from taking a walk or a jog, to swimming and dancing. Even if you travel extensively for work, there are easy and effective exercises you can do without any equipment. Raising your heart rate and staying focused on the physical activity at hand is a proven way to chemically make you feel better (endorphins are released within your body when you exercise which help reduce anxiety and increase happiness!) and is a great way to focus on something other than the issue that’s making you feel anxious.
These are all quite intuitive, aren't they? So perhaps you need to ask yourself why you have not prioritized your own health and well-being.
- What’s the worst that can happen?
While uncomfortable for many, studies have shown that thinking concretely about the topics you are anxious about and stepping into your fear, can make you realize that there is no reason for your anxiety. Perhaps you are worried because you are moving overseas or are dealing with a difficult situation at work—what's the worst that can happen?
“What if I forget what I wanted to say during tomorrow’s presentation? What if I ask for my raise and get rejected?”
Try this exercise: Get out a pen and paper and write down a list of all the things that you’re worried about. In a second column, write out the worst case scenario for each issue, and how you can and can’t control that outcome. A bit of preparation can go a long way to make you feel more comfortable. This exercise can also help you understand if your worries are realistic and the likelihood of these outcomes happening.
- Pay attention to what you put in your body
Fuel and nurture your body with nutritious foods to feel your best. Eat whole foods, avoid mind-altering substances, and it is best to avoid caffeine, as the increased heart rate and other symptoms of caffeine intake mimic those of anxiety—and can actually increase your feelings of anxiety as your body interprets the way your body feels to feeling increasingly anxious. Here are some tips on how to shop for a healthier lifestyle.
- Don’t cut yourself off from other people
Staying engaged in social activities, speaking to a friend or loved one, or simply by taking a walk outside to see other people instead of locking yourself alone in your home can help you feel more connected to your community and put your worries into perspective. Your friends, family, colleagues and social network can be a good support system for talking through your issues and helping you feel better. Most likely, someone else that you know has experienced anxiety in the past as well. You are not alone!
- Seek professional help
For some, anxiety is too serious of an issue to deal with by themselves. If the frequency and intensity of anxiety is robbing you from living the life that you want to lead, you may also want to consider seeking professional help. From social anxiety where people may be extremely nervous in social situations and go to extremes to avoid meeting new people, to Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a course of therapy and doing focused work to move beyond anxiety may be necessary.
Seeking professional help for anxiety
If you are simply too busy to visit a therapist face-to-face for counseling, you can save yourself time by trying out online therapy where you speak to your therapist remotely. While online therapy is not appropriate for each person’s situation, studies have been finding online therapy to be as effective for treatment, especially for patients that prefer the relative anonymity of an online consultation or feel too depression or anxious to travel to a therapist’s office for help.
Focused treatment has been shown to be successful for a variety of anxiety-related illnesses, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Did you know that many therapists offer a free, obligation-free inquiry session?
Unlike medical doctors, many wellness professionals offer free initial sessions because the treatment with them can be more personal, sensitive, and lengthy. If you’re looking to consult with a provider on RingMD, check to see if they offer a free session in the “packages” section of their profile or send them a direct message through the chat function on the platform.
Wishing you the best in your wellness journey!