It is quite normal to be worried now and again. From waiting for that call to visiting a distant relative, being anxious would be natural responses to these situations.
However, when it becomes overwhelming, your wellbeing is at risk. So, you will need to do something about it. In this blog, I will share 12 keys that can help you manage anxiety and stress.
Since WHO puts the number of people suffering from anxiety at over 300 million in 2017, we will look at anxiety and stress management techniques vetted by psychologists. Hopefully, a couple of them will feel right with you.
Let’s start with the number 12, which is to identify your anxiety source. This is a good place to start that will cost you nothing but time. The source could be a subject matter such as abuse or even a person that triggers overwhelming anxiousness leading to stress.
When you identify this trigger, Lawrence Robinson, a psychologist, and an author says if it's someone, you should either limit the time you spend with this person or end the relationship. Because it might be challenging to avoid some people or situations, Robinson outlined 3 other measures you can take in his 4A’s management technique.
That is if you can't avoid the trigger, alter it. If you still find alteration difficult, adapt to it. Some triggers just can’t change so, you have to accept it the way it is; keeping in mind that some events in life are uncontrollable.
Any of these, avoid, alter, adapt, acceptance, will help you manage anxiety and/or stress after you identify their sources.
Like identifying an anxiety source, almost all the approach we will learn about in this video to managing anxiety and stress comes at no cost. Let’s check them all out.
At number 11, you can try out relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises. There are other relaxation strategies, we will look at more of them.
Now, let’s focus on deep breathing. Sheryl Ankrom, a certified mental health counselor, and Amy Morin, a psychotherapist, write that although rapid and shallow breaths could indicate anxiousness, controlling your breath in those moments can prevent anxiety or stress from settling in. They recommend 3 steps to do this:
First inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose, secondly exhaling very slowly through your mouth. Keep at this until you feel better again. You can try it out now, and see how it feels. Go on.
Meditation which takes the number 10 spot is another relaxation technique just as deep breathing targeted at exhibiting mindfulness. Bob Stahl a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher says, “practicing mindfulness is a process of learning to trust and stay with feelings of discomfort rather than trying to escape from or analyze them”.
With mindfulness you can create space around your worries, so they don’t consume you. Katharina Star, an expert on anxiety and panic disorder, adds that initially engaging in meditation could actually increase anxiousness but as you ease into the process, recognizing your thought, the anxiety will slowly ebb away.
Next up is taking nature walks at number 9. Research has shown that mental wellbeing is linked to our engagement with nature. A study conducted in the UK found that when you exercise in natural settings, it improves your self-esteem and mood.
Our mood is associated with anxiety and stress. If you are feeling a bit low, take a walk to the pack, try camping with friends, or find a view of a forest if you are unable to go out. Just being around green natural spaces will help uplift your mood igniting happiness.
Being on social media is a common trigger of anxiety and stress. This is why taking breaks from these platforms is our number 8 anxiety and stress management strategy. Although quite a lot of people enjoy being on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, it sometimes challenges our mental state.
Anxiety, isolation, and depression are some of the by-products of these challenges. Yes, many of us rely on social media to keep up with friends and families, which is necessary, but you also have your mental state to consider.
Therefore, keep up with a friend and your family is not a problem but take weekly breaks from all of this. Try weekends where you could use the opportunity to take walks in natural settings or try out the number 6 on our list, techniques, we will learn about as we count down further.
At number 7, listening to cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance and anxiety frequently go together. Cognitive dissonance is that unsettled feeling or troubled thoughts we typically have when we know something doesn’t feel right.
When we are unable to define it in this circumstance it plunges us into anxiety and then stress. For instance, a person who aspires to have a lasting and faithful relationship, but indulges in unfaithful practices.
This creates a conflict within them. That conflict is the dissonance that arose from one’s practices and desires being incongruent. In this situation, Tanya Peterson, author of anxiety self-help books, recommends that rather than suppress the emotions, you listen to that dissonance to calm your anxiety.
Process the conflict by providing answers to questions like:
“What are your thoughts about it?
What are your emotions about it?
How are your actions causing anxiety and what does that anxiety feel like?”
With this, you sort out that dissonance. And while you are at it, you will feel a sense of calmness which consequently eases anxiety.
While you take breaks from social media, you could utilize that time for self-care. That is, create time to relax, which takes our number 6 spot. Lawrence Robinson says creating a ‘me’ time can help reduce the stress that has so far bundled up throughout the week.
You see why taking this particular time to relax fits nicely as it aligns with your breaks from social media. Robinson insists that you first have to include this relaxation period in your schedule to get started.
Know that this could be once in a week, or, a couple of seconds every day will do just fine. You could do something you enjoy every day, and try to laugh while you are at.
From identifying the triggers to carving out a ‘me’ time, we have seen some techniques that can help us manage anxiety and stress. We have more because as you know we are counting down to number 1. The main idea behind each of them is their simplicity and their positive effects. Let’s check them out.
This leads us to number 5 on the list: mental adjustments. Bruce Campbell, former self-help research project consultant for Stanford Medical school, came up with this management technique.
Sometimes we expect too much and this could lead to overthinking. We set unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, which could affect our mood when we don’t accomplish these goals.
This is why Campbell insists we change our expectations, mentally adjust our prospects. With this, there are no mood swings when you fail to get something done which stresses you out. So, set realistic and achievable goals.
Speaking from personal experience, I have found that small, incremental goals that lead up to the completion or manifestation of a greater goal works well for me.
Tackling the objectives (however small) on a daily basis gives me a sense of order, so I’m never left wondering if my day was spent constructively. Also, I’m never at that place of feeling overwhelmed. This helps greatly with my anxiety.
At number 4, try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. What you choose to eat and drink can help manage anxiety and stress. Eating a healthy diet keeps the body well-nourished enough to handle stress.
Without that, you feel physically weak, allowing anxiety to set in because you are too frail to implement any of the techniques we have discussed so far. Other than eating healthy food, reduce caffeine and sugar.
This is because the temporary ‘highs’ that often come when we take caffeine or sugar could lead to mood crash leading to anxiety and stress.
Besides maintaining a healthy lifestyle, get enough sleep which is our number 3. Smitha Bhandari, a certified adult, child, adolescents, and forensic psychiatrist says that when it comes to anxiety and stress management, get enough rest because “your body needs time to recover from stressful events.”
Sleep can be an effective tool to calm your racing thoughts as your body distresses while you sleep. Yes, reducing coffee intake will give you more time to sleep. However, there are some instances, after a stressful period, you need to cut them off completely.
Moving down to number 2, we have time management. Stress sometimes comes from disorganization. Just like overthinking can trigger anxiety, having so many things to do without a clue of how to go about it can lead to stress. Here are 4 things to do;
One: Plan your day and prioritize tasks
Two: Learn to say no, and don’t over-commit yourself
Three: Break down a task into smaller bits or steps. Remember how I mentioned setting small, incremental goals? That breakdown helps me gauge my progress, gives me a sense of accomplishment each day and prevents me from feeling unaccomplished and unclear, both of which trigger my anxiety.
And finally, four: Share responsibilities. Too much to do? Give to someone who can help, or a colleague at work who could assist you. Sharing the responsibility is difficult for someone who’s very controlling or likes to micromanage. Learning to share the responsibility is a tough skill to develop but it is quite necessary.
Managing your day and staying organized can eliminate stress before it settles in.
Finally, at number 1, you can consider support. Sometimes, none of these techniques might prove resourceful because of the peculiarity of your situation. So, talk to a friend or family about it, and don’t rule out therapy sessions.
A therapist could recommend approaches towards anxiety and stress management that are specific to your trigger. This will be more helpful for you.
From identifying the sources of our anxiety to seeking support, these are management techniques that can help you and I deal with that overwhelming emotional distress known as anxiety and stress.
Know that a technique won’t necessarily prove useful for two people despite the similarities of their triggers. And if you experience anxiety more than the average person, then consulting a therapist will have more impact rather than seeking support from family and friends or trying out other strategies.
Additionally, you might have to use two or more management techniques to be more effective.
Tell us, out of the 12, which of the proven techniques you will combine, or have you tried out any of the techniques outlined here? If you have, do share in the comment section how you would rate it from 1-10 its impact in dealing with anxiety and stress.