It can strike at any time…that debilitating feeling of panic…. the racing thoughts start, your mind begins to go over “what if” scenarios and next thing you know you’re struggling with fighting off a panic attack.
- Become aware of your anxiety triggers: If you suffer with anxiety there are likely triggers (people, places, things) that increase your feelings of anxiety. Try journaling for a week, jot down when you’re anxious and what happened before the anxiety struck. This will allow you to begin to identify what is triggering your anxiety whether it’s too much caffeine and too little sleep, the anticipation of a work event or a conflict with someone you love. Once you’re aware of your anxiety triggers you can start take steps to reduce them.
- Eliminate substances that increase your anxiety: Take an honest inventory of your diet; for many people struggling with anxiety excessive caffeine use (energy drinks, coffee or tea) can spike feelings of panic and anxiety as can excessive sugar consumption. Caffeine and anxiety both spike blood sugar which results in blood sugar dropping and can lead to …you guessed it, feelings of anxiousness.
- Eat Throughout the day to maintain your blood sugar level: Just like excessive caffeine or sugar intake can impact your blood sugar levels & induce anxiety not eating for long periods of time, ignoring your hunger cues or allowing yourself to become extremely hungry can cause your blood sugar levels to drop and increase feelings of panic or anxiety. You can fight off hunger-induced anxiety by carrying easy to eat snacks such as nuts, low-sugar granola bars or trail mix.
- Distract Yourself: Anxiety feeds off racing, obsessive thoughts. Being with your thoughts when you’re anxious is like throwing gasoline on a fire. Often, we think we can “outthink” our anxiety by obsessing about and “solving” whatever it is that’s causing us anxiety. However, this doesn’t work….it just creates more anxiety. Instead, when you notice you’re struggling with anxiety try getting out of your head; talk to a friend, go for a walk or do something that requires your attention such as reading or cooking. If you’re worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet thinking about the issue won’t bring you any relief but stepping out of your worrying brain will.
- Don’t take yourself (or your anxiety) so seriously: When we struggle with anxiety we often also struggle with what psychologists refer to as an “imaginary audience” this is the mistaken belief that when we’re feeling panicky or anxious everyone is watching and being critical of us. Of course, this belief system causes us to feel more anxious. Try to remember that anxiety is extremely common, and most people will suffer with it at some point. Rather than allowing the thoughts in your head to run wild try to remind yourself that no one is judging you and none of us are as important to strangers as we think we are. Try to develop a sense of humor with your anxiety by stepping back and reminding yourself that it’s just a feeling and no feeling lasts for forever.
by Alex House