Humans experience a wide range of emotions – happiness, sadness, fear, jealousy, anxiety, and the list goes on. We shift from one emotion to another depending on the situations we are faced with. It’s normal to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, especially when there’s a big moment ahead of you like a test or presentation.
But sometimes, these feelings of anxiety become overwhelming and difficult to cope with. You’re constantly filled with worry, and nothing you do seems to ease that heaviness you experience in your mind. Anxiety like this can take a serious toll on your mental health, so it’s important to learn how to manage this anxiety.
Here are 5 useful strategies to help you cope with anxiety:
1. Talk to someone who can help.
If you’re experiencing anxiety in the workplace, reach out to your supervisor or manager. Odds are, they have no idea what you’re going through. I struggled with anxiety during my time as a college lecturer back in 2019. After my first semester, I almost handed in my resignation.
But my supervisor was kind enough to offer a switch from full-time to part-time employment, and a reduced teaching load to help ease my anxiety. Speak to your immediate supervisor and communicate with him/her about what you’re going through. You might be able to find a workable solution together.
If you’re a student facing anxiety in school or college, reach out to your campus counsellor. Many universities offer counselling services and provide help for students who experience mental health issues.
After trying the above suggestions, if you’re still struggling to manage your anxiety, consider speaking to a therapist. They’re trained professionals who can help and coach you on coping techniques to ease your anxiety.
2. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a job that’s hurting your mental health.
Let’s say you’ve spoken to your supervisor, but things at work haven’t gotten better. It might be time to seek other job opportunities. Although trying to make it work is admirable, it’s not worth jeopardizing your well-being for.
If what’s triggering your anxiety is the workload, talking to your manager and discussing possible solutions may help. However, if you encounter unsupportive supervisors or face different triggers such as a toxic work environment, there’s little you can do to change the situation.
In such cases, it’s important to prioritize your mental health and look out for other opportunities.
3. Learn to say ‘no’.
Ultimately, I ended up leaving my job as a college lecturer and found my way into blogging and freelance writing. As a freelancer, there’s virtually no limit to the amount of work you can take on. But having struggled with anxiety, I’ve become more conscious about not taking on more than I can handle.
When I have a lot on my plate, I’ve learned to say no to things I can’t take on. There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing your mental health, so don’t feel bad about saying no every now and then!
4. Engage in activities that reduce your anxiety.
It’s important to find positive outlets for stress and anxiety. Physical activity, for instance, has been known to reduce feelings of anxiety. Exercise eases anxiety by reducing muscle tension and increasing the availability of anti-anxiety neurochemicals such as serotonin.
Exercise has certainly helped me to manage my anxiety. I start my day with 10 to 15 minutes of yoga. This practice of moving my body and focusing my attention on the breath helps me to relax and eases me into a positive headspace. In the evening, I go for a 30-minute walk outside. After a long day, this is a great way to unwind.
Also, here are some science-backed self care ideas to help ease your anxiety.
5. Practise self-soothing.
When I’m anxious, I often talk to my husband, and he has a magical way of calming me down. But of course, he’s not always around. On a busy weekday, if I get anxious about something, I try to practise self-soothing.
Self-soothing is basically how we treat ourselves to manage any negative emotions we may experience. If you’re struggling to figure out how to manage your anxiety, here are some helpful self-soothing techniques you can try.
Take a few deep breaths.
When you’re feeling anxious, you may start to notice physical changes such as increased heart rate and rapid breathing. Deep breathing counters these changes and helps you to feel more relaxed. Start by breathing in slowly through your nose. Focus your attention on the breath, and feel your lungs fill up with air. Finally, exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this a few times until you feel more relaxed.
Challenge your negative thoughts.
When negative thoughts come up, it’s important not to merely accept them but rather, challenge them. My anxiety is often triggered by negative thoughts like “Something is going to go wrong” or “I’m going to screw this up.”
So, I take a few deep breaths and remind myself that these thoughts aren’t true. I tell myself, “I’m NOT going to screw up. I’m assuming the worst will happen. In the past, things have gone well most of the time. Things can and will go well this time, too.”
Doing this helps me to nip my negative thought process in the bud and prevents me from spiralling.
Take a break.
Step back from what’s causing you anxiety and shift your focus elsewhere for a while. Go for a walk, do some yoga, or meditate. Come back to it when you’re in a better headspace.
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Learning how to manage anxiety with these strategies can be an absolute game-changer! Having practised these strategies to manage my own anxiety, my mental health has improved leaps and bounds, and I’m much happier now. I hope these strategies work for you as well.
Learn more about my mental health journey.
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