Ways to Help with Anxiety: Practical Strategies for Finding Calm
Anxiety is extremely common and affects millions of people worldwide. It can manifest in various forms, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder, and often brings about feelings of worry, fear, and unease. Some triggers are fear of being judged or criticized, social settings such as school or work (especially if you feel like an outsider), low self-esteem and self judgment, or an unhealthy home situation.
Fortunately, there are effective strategies and techniques that can help manage anxiety and find a sense of calmness. Action Anxiety Day is on June 10th, and this blog post will explore three practical ways to help people who are struggling find peace amidst their daily challenges.
We worked with one of our counsellor’s, Linda, to share the best advice.
Mindfulness is a powerful practice that can greatly benefit anyone experiencing anxiety. By cultivating present-moment awareness without judgment, you can learn to observe your thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them. Mindfulness allows you to ground yourself in the present, helping to alleviate anxiety associated with future uncertainties or past regrets.
To incorporate mindfulness into daily life, try these tactics:
- Meditation: Guided meditation apps like Headspace and Calm provide a range of mindfulness exercises tailored to different needs, including anxiety management. Taking just a few minutes each day to sit quietly, focus on your breath, and observe your thoughts can have a huge impact on reducing anxiety levels.
- Body Scan: Engage in a body scan practice where you systematically bring attention to each part of your body, noticing any sensations or areas of tension. This helps you reconnect with your physical self and become more attuned to your body’s signals, promoting relaxation and calmness.
Challenging Negative Thoughts Causing Anxiety
Anxiety often thrives on negative thinking patterns, where individuals perceive threats or catastrophize everyday situations. Challenging and reframing these thoughts is a crucial step. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment approach that can assist in identifying and modifying negative thinking patterns. Therapy and counselling are also extremely helpful for anyone struggling. It gives room for a safe place to talk about issues and feelings that are coming up. It allows us the opportunity to learn what’s happening in the body, and why we feel the way we do.
Some tips to challenge negative thoughts:
- Recognize Cognitive Distortions: Become familiar with common cognitive distortions, such as all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, and catastrophizing. Anxiety Canada and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provide resources that explain these distortions in detail. (We’ve provided links to these resources below)
- Reframe Negative Thoughts: Once you identify a negative thought, challenge its accuracy and validity. Replace it with a more balanced and realistic perspective. For example, if you find yourself thinking, “I always mess things up,” reframe it as, “I’ve made mistakes in the past, but I’ve also had successes.”
- Incorporating Relaxation Techniques and Lifestyle Modifications: In addition to mindfulness and cognitive strategies, incorporating relaxation techniques and lifestyle modifications can have a huge impact on reducing anxiety levels. By creating a supportive environment and engaging in activities that promote relaxation and well-being, individuals can manage more effectively.
Some of Linda’s recommended techniques:
- Deep Breathing: Practice diaphragmatic breathing, where you breathe deeply into your abdomen, focusing on slow inhalations and exhalations. This technique activates the body’s relaxation response and helps calm the nervous system.
- Regular Exercise: Engage in physical activities that you enjoy, such as walking, yoga, or swimming. Exercise releases endorphins, which act as natural mood boosters and stress relievers.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Prioritize self-care by maintaining a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake. These lifestyle modifications can positively influence overall mental well-being and reduce anxiety symptoms.
Living with anxiety is extremely challenging, but it can be helpful to know that effective strategies exist to help find calmness amidst the storm. By embracing mindfulness, challenging negative thoughts, incorporating relaxation techniques and lifestyle modifications, it’s possible to manage anxiety on your own. And if it can’t be managed alone, reach out to work with a therapist or counsellor. Where you will receive specific strategies catered to your needs, and an understanding of how to change your life for the better.
- Anxiety Canada: https://www.anxietycanada.com/get-involved/action-anxiety-day/
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/
- Headspace: https://www.headspace.com/
- Calm: https://www.calm.com/
- Anxiety Canada: https://www.anxietycanada.com/