Anxiety: The Equal Opportunity Employer

Anxiety.  The thing that can make your mind race, your heart pound, your chest tighten, and keep you awake at night.  It’s a delightful little beast.  Anxiety does not care who you are, as it is perfectly content invading anyone’s life.  You may have had it for as long as you can remember, or it may suddenly sideswipe you out of nowhere.   At its best, it is annoying and inconvenient, at its worst it can be paralyzing.

So what is a person supposed to do with anxiety once you have it?  There are lots of possible answers to that question.  The first thing to consider might be how intense the anxiety is.  Not all anxiety is bad, and some anxiety is normal, such as before a performance, before a test, or in a new situation.  Anxiety becomes problematic when it is affecting your ability to function.  What is the impact on your sleep?  Is it difficult to get things done at work or home because you cannot focus?  Are you feeling panicky in public places? Is it affecting your physical health?  If the intensity of the anxiety is fairly disruptive or uncomfortable you may want to seek professional help from a therapist or a medical doctor.  If it is still somewhat manageable you may want to try a few things on your own to see if improvements can be made before seeking professional help.

Some things that you can try to help manage anxiety include:

  • Meditation (Guided meditations are helpful to start-check Amazon or iTunes)
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Yoga
  • Deep breathing
  • Exercising to discharge nervous energy
  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Positive self-talk (Eg: “I am feeling anxious, but I know I will be okay.”  “I know I am safe.”)

Distracting yourself with activities or spending time with others can be a nice coping strategy for anxiety too.  The down side is that when it is finally time to go to bed, which requires removing distractions, the anxiety can make a fierce comeback.  So be prepared with strategies to help quiet your mind and body such as those suggested above.   At times it can even be useful to stay with your anxiety and really pay attention to it.  What is it trying to tell you?  What is the anxiety really about?  What is your true fear?  Being more aware of the anxiety can be a means of understanding the anxiety and therefore learning what is needed to manage it.