Applied Psychology

Tips for Managing Anxiety

Jan 24, 2024 | By Jenna van Schoor

We all feel anxious sometimes, but chronic anxiety can become debilitating and affect our mental and physical health. Worrying when anticipating changes or significant events in our lives is normal. However, when we live in a constant state of fear, this is a problem.

Anxiety disorders are a global health concern, and therefore we must learn how to  manage this mental health crisis effectively. When worry affects us daily to the point where we cannot function, we need tools to manage our symptoms and treat the cause(s), which can involve various therapeutic approaches.

Although seeking help from a mental health professional is essential, here are some tips for managing anxiety daily:

1. Prioritise your physical health

Anxiety can feel more overwhelming when we aren’t prioritising our physical health. If we eat well, get enough sleep and exercise, we build a solid foundation for our mental health, which means we have some kind of a buffer against unexpected triggers.

Taking care of ourselves can mean making adjustments to our diet. For example, while sugar might not directly cause anxiety, blood sugar dips and spikes can influence our mood. Therefore, it’s vital to eat a consistently wholesome diet to make sure that you avoid any unnecessary blood sugar destabilisation. 

2. Get support

Understanding what thoughts and situations trigger you can be very helpful in learning how to manage anxiety. You can do this by working with a mental health professional to help you work through your anxious thought patterns in a safe space. 

Sharing your thoughts and feelings with supportive close friends and family can also help. Social connectedness offers many benefits and can help prevent feeling isolated in your mental health struggles. However, it’s essential to use discretion when opening up to others, especially if they also struggle with anxiety.

3. Keep a journal

Getting an objective view of our thought patterns and feelings can be challenging when we constantly feel scared and overwhelmed. By writing in a journal, you can gain clarity, empowering you to make changes and become aware of thought and behavioural patterns and triggers. 

Writing in a journal can also be a safe space to express your innermost thoughts and feelings. This expression can be a massive relief if you are bottling up difficult emotions you need to vent. If you have experienced significant trauma, which could contribute to your anxiety, seeking help is imperative.

If you are experiencing crippling anxiety, talking to a mental health professional is essential.

4. Avoid stimulants and depressants

Stimulants can exacerbate anxiety as they increase your heart rate, which may be a bit more rapid in the first place. Everyone has a different tolerance for stimulants, but avoiding anything that can change your physical state or mood, such as caffeine, is best. 

It’s also critical to know how stimulants and depressants (like alcohol) affect you, especially if you take medication.

5. Learn emotional regulation techniques

Learning to down-regulate your nervous system can be incredibly helpful in managing anxiety symptoms. Breathing exercises are simple and effective ways to calm yourself when anxious. These breathing exercises often involve inhaling and exhaling for specific counts and holding the breath for brief periods. 

As we’ve discussed in other blog posts about how to deal with trauma, you can learn to down-regulate effectively by understanding how your nervous system operates and how to stimulate your vagus nerve. Practices like mindfulness meditation and yoga also help to manage stress. However, even just going for a walk could be equally as helpful.

6. Learn more about mental health and anxiety

You can effectively manage your mental health by gaining a deeper understanding  about how we think, behave,manage stress and support others.

Mental health is a complex field, though, and there are many ways to equip yourself with tools to enhance yours. You can start by learning essential tools and techniques, as discussed above. 

If you want to take a deeper dive into the topic of mental health register for these specialised online short courses:

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