We all go through times of feeling anxious about something important to us but when feelings of anxiety get to be a more regular part of our lives we need to find a way to manage them so we can flourish in this life rather than being held back by fear.
This is about developing skills and techniques we can use in our daily lives to manage anxiety so we can stop it from being overwhelming. Sometimes medication is needed but it cannot work alone, having life skills that empower us to live the life we want are needed for long term results.
Here are 12 techniques for you to explore to help manage anxious times:
1. Changing the internal feelings from anxiety to calmness means shifting the physiological - taking rapid, shallow breathing to measured calm breathing is a very effective method. This means focusing on your breathing with a slow breath in through your nose for 3 counts with "In, Two, Three", out with "Relax, Two, Three" for a few minutes. Keep track of your breathing to have it settle down.
2. With the focus on breathing, being in the moment and stretching Yoga is very popular for developing life skills that offer a path away from regular anxiety. It is an exercise that benefits the body, mind and spirit. There are different types of yoga, including Hafa which is a breathing focused method. It can also be used in conjunction with other techniques.
3. Exercise in itself can be very good for shifting the anxiety patterns as it changes the body and mind. Doing some form of exercise every day brings benefits in all areas of life. I love walking and find that the simple act of walking under trees, seeing light play on water, watching birds and getting out of my indoor space lifts my spirits, clearing cobwebs away. It's the doing that matters. Even a 30 minute walk in the evenings around the neighbourhood makes a good difference.
4. Play music that lifts your heart and spirits - whether that be classical or something that you can have a great big sing along with. The other day I played a favourite U2 CD and sang my lungs out, I felt so good for doing so. For many of us music is one of the best ways to shift our feelings. For the lucky ones who can play instruments have a collection of uplifting pieces on hand that you can play and revel in.
5. When a wave of anxiety is building up start saying thank you, thank you for anything positive. If you cannot initially think of something positive, just keep repeating saying thank you until you can. Giving thanks to a higher being, whether that be God or the Universe, is powerful in itself. Saying thank you every day makes it easier to use this as a get out quick from anxiety card as it will feel much more natural, you'll be able to come up with things to be thankful for. As an example, I'm thankful for the sunshine for my garden, if it's raining I'm thankful for the rain for my garden, for the great CD's I have to sing to - the list goes on. It is about giving thanks for the little things, the big things and everything in between. Saying thank you is a form of relaxation and a thought management technique.
6. Having a regular form of relaxation is important for changing the energy from stress and anxiety to peace and calm. For me this is done through yoga, exercise (swimming, walking and the gym), saying thank you, reading and singing (I have favourite tapes in the car that I sing to and put on when feeling frustrated with traffic of country driving - kids adapt to this sometimes better than other adults!). It can also include meditation, something that is also included in a yoga session. Personal relaxation techniques can also be developed for you by health professionals.
7. Look to your diet to see if there are things you can try changing for a while - consider your caffeine and alcohol in take as it might be higher than what your body can effective handle during stressful times. Often we think having a drink or two can be good for taking the edge off but this type of self medication can become part of the problem. By reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption you will find it easier to get a good night's sleep - rest is always beneficial for managing stress. Maybe try having a dry month and note the changes. The first little few days might be a bit awkward but that could be a sign that your body really does need this rest period.
8. Do something enjoyable each day. This doesn't need to take hours, be expensive or over the top. It can be simple and easy. It just needs to be something you can do each day that you look forward to so you can relax and leave your concerns behind. I have a chair in the backyard I like to sit in. I'll read, watch the birds, have a peppermint tea, flick through a magazine or even just sit there in some quiet time. It's usually for just a little while but that's fine, I'm getting a break and enjoy it. It is a little gift to myself.
9. Journal writing can be a really good way to let the thoughts and worries out of your head. While they are inside your head thoughts bounce round, collide with each other and get bruised and battered. Letting them out onto paper or the screen can get fresh air in amongst them and can help bring perspective and light. You don't have to be a talented author to journal write, you don't have to be a good speller. You are writing for you and no one else. It is the act of writing, of expressing your thoughts that makes the difference.
10. Talk with your friends and/or family about how you're feeling. Say you need some TLC. Let them in and let them help you. Talking can be about letting light in and finding a calmer self. Yet if there's someone who is negative and not helping take a step back from them and talk with someone who is constructive and helpful. Often we're surprised about who is good at helping, being kind and caring for us and who isn't. We all have our limitations and strengths.
11. For many of us the feeling of not having enough time can be overwhelming, we just have too much on. I was feeling this way until I realised it was a question of time management. I'm never going to get everything done and if I did then I'd be either forgetting things or I wouldn't have a business anymore. So I looked at changing how I was managing my time, changed a few things and let go of worrying. I can prioritise better, figuring out what's most important, getting the big things done and letting some smaller things go by the wayside. Better planning and managing is letting me do this.
12. Figuring out what is causing the stress and anxiety so you can then find a solution and then a plan for testing out the solution - sometimes it takes a few different goes at different solutions and plans but that's fine, that's part of living and learning in life. It takes more time to do this than it does to write it and often getting help to make this happen is much easier than trying to imitate Super Woman (or Man) and finding out they really are fictional characters. But identifying the problem, looking for solutions and coming up with a plan is a far more powerful and effective way of creating a path through anxiety than doing nothing and suffering.
You don't have to find a path through anxiety by yourself. There is help available, even through Medicare. Talking to your doctor can get you a referral for a health professional that has the skills and training to help find the path that's best for you. Finding the right fit with a health professional, someone you personally feel you can be open with and trust, can take a couple referrals and that's fine. Giving someone a go, opening up and testing the waters is a healthy and positive gift to give to yourself.
Figuring out that you have something that isn't working well for you - anxiety - and choosing to do something about it is a powerful thing. What matters is taking the first steps. For me I prefer to start with the easiest steps when doing something challenging. Once I start doing the easier things I find they aren't as hard as I feared and I'm getting benefits that make the next single step easier.
Maybe starting with a good sing is an easy step? Go put on some music and let yourself enjoy it. Do this each day. Then add another good thing. Try saying thank you and smiling as you say it (I started saying Thank You 10 times in the shower as it was private time). As you go on each bit will get easier.
Children and Anxiety and Depression
The good news about children with anxiety and depression is there is a very high treatment success rate. This is in part because kids are so good at learning skills. If you have a child you are concerned about seek help quickly and act immediately because the sooner action is taken the faster the good results can be achieved.
Anxiety and depression don't have to be a life time experience, especially with having the life skills to recognise and manage it. Below are websites that help with children anxiety for more information.
Here's 12 helpful online resources to help with anxiety:
Understanding and Managing Anxiety Tips by the Australian Psychological Society - this has information on anxiety symptoms, anxiety treatments and anxiety causes
beyondblue Australia or phone 1300 22 4636
Find a Psychologist Service or phone 1800 333 497
Reach Out - About Anxiety
Anxiety Treatment Options
Anxiety: Ten Tips on managing anxiety in an emotionally intelligent way
Anxiety Treatment Australia
JobAccess - Managing fear and anxiety (Australian Government Website)
Anxiety in Children
Anxiety in Children - Health Translations Directory
Managing Anxiety in Children Tips Sheet (PDF format)
Preventing and Treating Anxiety in Children and Youth