The sun rose high over a west Texas sky. The early bird joyously greeted the new day and a previously barren land was beginning to transform as it welcomed the spring. My rose bush added her own mark to the picturesque scene by displaying a single, ruby red blossom. By any standard, this should be a peaceful way to start the day, but underneath my calm exterior, there was chaos.
Did I turn off the bathroom heater? What if my house burns down, or worse, what if my dog dies? My friend hasn’t responded to my text, did I say something wrong? You’re going to be late for class and everyone will stare when you walk in. Was my dog acting funny this morning? Is he sick? Did I turn on my house alarm? You look disgusting in this outfit, people will think you are fat. Did I turn off the coffee pot? …I didn’t even have coffee.
In the negativity spiral that is my anxiety, I begin to suffocate. I’ve been living with PTSD for years now and sometimes I still struggle to control the hellish beast anxiety truly is. I am happy to say that it is not nearly as difficult as it used to be, but every now and then, it beats me. Anxiety beats me straight into the ground and sets its enormous weight on top. I take comfort in the fact that I don’t suffer alone. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that roughly 18% of Americans over the age of 18 are affected by anxiety. For the record, a little bit of anxiety is perfectly normal, I understand that, as with any mental health disorder the trouble happens when the emotion, in this case anxiety, occurs excessively for a prolonged period.
There are so many ways that we can combat anxiety such as psychotherapy, medication, or through various mindfulness practices (yoga, meditation, even acupuncture). I am currently receiving treatment at a VA facility in the form of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that has had wonderful results. For more information on ACT check out this page from Psychology Today.
Understanding anxiety is one thing, I tell myself all the time that my anxiety related fears are irrational and have little chance of actually manifesting. It is a whole other battle to learn how to trust yourself or accept things as they are in order to overcome anxiety at its worst. Let’s take a closer look at some ways we can combat anxiety.
- Breathing exercises are a great way of overcoming/managing anxiety when it becomes too much. Below are a few examples.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing – Sit or lie in a comfortable position with one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Slowly breath in through your nose while contracting your diaphragm, your stomach should push against your hand while the hand on your chest should not move at all. It takes practice!
- 4-7-8 technique – This one is simple. Breath in for 4 counts (you can use heartbeat to help) hold for 7 counts and out for 8 counts. Make sure to breath from your diaphragm.
- Box Breathing – Another simple method. Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4, exhale 4, and hold 4. Then repeat.
- Ideally, these exercises should be done for around 5 – 10 minutes or repeated 10 – 20 times as needed. The thing is, you have to practice these prior to actually needing them. The more you practice them outside of a stressful situation the more effective they will be when anxiety strikes.
- Mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation are wonderful ways to combat anxiety. Mindfulness practices can even be done while working on breathing exercises. As the old saying goes, there’s an app for that. Check out the many free apps or even YouTube channels with guided meditation practices on them if you’re struggling to meditate on your own. YouTube also helps with yoga if you’re not excited about being in a classroom full of people.
- Treat Yo Self! While I was in an out-patient program, the program coordinator always stressed the importance of taking time to treat yourself to something nice. A massage, taking a trip, sitting in a sauna, getting a hair-cut or even shopping (should your budget allow… don’t want to cause more stress 😀 ). Don’t feel guilty about it either, if there’s anything I’ve learned as the years tick by, its that everyone deserves a break and pampering every now and then.
- Practice gratitude. In the same out-patient program previously discussed, we would be tasked with naming at least 20 different things we were grateful for. This can be done on paper, out loud, in list form, in a descriptive paragraph. Not only do you begin to adopt a more positive outlook and begin to practice gratitude in every day situations, but you can reference your journal when you are feeling down as a pick-me-up.
These are just a few of my favorite ways to combat anxiety but there are a lot more. From free writing to exercising, take a moment to look up which way works well for you. Remember that you’re not alone and don’t be afraid to turn to a trusted friend for help, you can even message me if you want an unbiased, confidential ear to turn to. I hope you enjoyed this post! As always, let’s continue to grow together.
What are some of your favorite ways to combat anxiety?