12 Simple Ways To Cope With Anxiety Symptoms
- Deepanwita Roy
- 6 Min Read
- Fact Checked
Despite the ‘unlock’ and adjusting to the new normal, COVID 19 still hasn’t gone away completely from our lives. The biggest impact this has had is on our mental health– our sense of positivity and optimism, our productivity, and even our relationships. From experiencing immense anxiety, low mood, irritability, anger, disappointment, fear, apprehension to a significant sense of loss, and even grief and guilt, this experience has resulted in an unravelling of sorts for many of us. While it’s normal for people to experience anxiety when they’re undergoing stress, there are a few red flags, signs and symptoms of anxiety to look out for. To cope with anxiety takes time and patience, but understanding how it works and its symptoms will help the journey become a bit lighter.
The symptoms of anxiety can be categorized in 3 categories namely, physical, psychological and behavioral symptoms.
- Heart pounding
- Shortness of breath
- Dry mouth
- Stomach aches
- Muscle aches/ pains
- Inability to relax
- Excessive worry
- Feeling ‘on edge’
- Vivid dreams or nightmares
- Mind racing
- Mind going blank
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased memory
- Distress in social situations
- Avoidance of situations
- Fear or phobic behaviour
These experiences are all understandable in the face of the significant challenge.
12 Simple Ways To Cope With Anxiety
(1) Identify the triggers
Try to recognize the triggers early– while you should not avoid the triggers to the point where it affects you; anticipating the trigger might decrease the likelihood of engaging in certain situations. Once you identify your triggers, take a step back and reflect on the situation. It would give you a different perspective and help you in dealing with your anxiety in a much better way.
(2) Focus on your breathing
Often when you are anxious, your breathing becomes rapid and erratic. Start practising deep breathing and learning to breathe from your diaphragm- the area of the body that tends to get ‘clenched’ when we are anxious. Count your breaths while breathing- four seconds inhaling, four seconds holding your breath, and four seconds exhaling. This will bring your heart rate down and make your body relax eventually. This can be done anywhere.
(3) Noticing five things (grounding technique)
This is yet another simple exercise to centre yourself and engage with your environment rather than getting carried away with unwanted thoughts and feelings. Pause for a moment, look around, and notice five things that you can see, listen to five sounds that you can hear, and connect to five things that you can feel in contact with your body. Continue doing all the above simultaneously.
(4) Finding a safe space where you feel comfortable and not vulnerable
Look out for places within or outside your house, for example, your balcony, terrace, or places where most likely you don’t work regularly or simply get up from your work desk, walk around the room and let your body relax.
(5) Connect with someone
While anxiety can be an isolating event, try being proactive by identifying the triggers that you’re on edge and could use some support. Texting your friends or family members to see if you can talk or chat for some time or arrange for an in-person or virtual meet-up can be ways to call out for support.
(6) Being mindful
Being mindful about your surroundings, being fully aware of the present moment- awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the surrounding environment helps you to stay calm, relaxed, and manage anxiety in a much better manner.
(7) Write down your thoughts
Often in anxious situations, our thoughts get distorted and need to be challenged. If your thoughts are distorted, writing back and challenging the thoughts by coming up with more realistic versions of the same thoughts may help you gather perspective at the workplace.
(8) Take breaks & rest when you need it
While your academics or your job might be demanding, taking smaller breaks in between and not shying away from taking rest can help you stay motivated and productive throughout.
(9) Modify your lifestyle
Engage in regular physical exercises. Doing easy exercises or going out for a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes every day help you manage your anxiety. Similarly, maintaining a healthy nutritious diet, avoiding too much caffeine while working can also help you to cope with your anxiety.
(10) Set aside a ‘worry time’ each day
- Schedule a worrying time. Pick a 15-minute timeframe to sit and worry.
- Worry during your worrying time. Write in a journal, talk to someone about it, or just think about all the things you have to worry about.
- Stop worrying when your time is up. When your time ends, get up, and do an activity that distracts you from those worries.
- Defer worrisome thoughts to your worrying time. When you find yourself worrying outside of your scheduled time, remind yourself it’s not time yet and that you’ll worry about it later.
(11) Put things in perspective
Any situation that is uncertain, leaves us with many ‘what if?’ questions in our minds. When we are unable to get to the correct answers to these questions, our anxious minds will fill in the blanks with worse case scenarios, which in turn, leaves us feeling overwhelmed, helpless and vulnerable. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help your thinking shift to a more helpful mindset:
- What are the things within my control?
- Am I overestimating the likelihood of the worst-case scenario?
- What strategies have helped me cope with challenging situations in the past that will serve me well during this time?
- What is a small helpful or positive action that I can take now?
- What am I telling myself that is making me feel this way?
(12) Maintain a consistent daily routine and activity
We all are used to a particular lifestyle, schedule and routine. To manage anxiety, it is important to try and stick to your usual regular routines- maintaining the same times for waking up and bedtime; maintaining the same times for breakfast-lunch-dinner and utilising the extra times for something more rewarding.
- Read a book or listen to audio-books
- Listen to music
- Keep learning something new
- Try out a new hobby or skill (for example, learn a new language, cook a new recipe, try your hands in gardening and so on).
When to see a doctor
It’s not always easy to tell when anxiety is a serious medical problem versus a bad day causing you to feel upset or worried. Without treatment, your anxiety may not go away and could worsen over time. Treating anxiety and other mental health conditions is easier early on rather than when symptoms worsen.
You should visit your doctor if:
- You feel as though you’re worrying so much that it’s interfering with your daily life (including hygiene, academics or work, and your social life)
- Your anxiety, fear, or worry is distressing to you and hard for you to control
- You feel sad, are using alcohol or drugs to cope, or have other mental health concerns besides anxiety
- You have the feeling your anxiety is caused by an underlying mental health problem
Don’t let your anxiety take control of your life. If you feel overwhelmed, seek help from a friend, coworker or a mental health professional. Help is always available for the ones who ask for it. It can be hard to cope with anxiety, but not impossible with a bit of help.