Rehman Patel says it’s normal to get nervous about an important event or life change, about 40 million Americans live with an anxiety disorder, which is more than the occasional worry or fear. Anxiety disorders can range from a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which is intensely worrying that you can’t control, to panic disorder — sudden episodes of fear, along with heart palpitations, trembling, shaking, or sweating.
For those with an anxiety disorder, it’s important to look into strategies that can help manage or reduce anxiety in the long term, like talk therapy or medication. But everyone can benefit from other ways to reduce stress and anxiety with lifestyle changes such as eating a well-balanced diet, limiting alcohol and caffeine, and taking time for yourself.
If you’re not focused on how to calm your body through slow, intentional belly-breathing, you’re missing out. Belly-breathing is free, location independent, and easy to implement. Here’s how to get started:
- Sit with your eyes closed and turn your attention to your breathing. Breathe naturally, preferably through the nostrils, without attempting to control your breath.
- Be aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. Place one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of three. Exhale for a count of four. The hand on your belly should go in as you inhale, and move out as you exhale.
Regular exercise is good for your physical and emotional health. Regular exercise works as well as medication to ease anxiety for some people. And it’s not just a short-term fix; you may experience anxiety relief for hours after working out.
Don’t drink alcohol
Alcohol is a natural sedative. Drinking a glass of wine or a finger of whiskey when your nerves are shot may calm you at first. Once the buzz is over, however, anxiety may return with a vengeance. If you rely on alcohol to relieve anxiety instead of treating the root of the problem, you may develop alcohol dependence.
Talk to someone who gets it
If your feelings of anxiety are making it hard to function, you should speak to a health professional. But talking to friends can also help. I have friends who have an anxiety disorder too. When I’m feeling really bad, I send them a message telling them how I’m feeling.
They might have a new hack I can try, or they can point out something that might have acted as a trigger. But sometimes it’s just nice to vent to someone who knows how it feels to be in my shoes.
Accept your anxiety
This may sound counterintuitive, but accepting your anxiety (instead of feeling ashamed or frustrated by it) will actually help you feel less anxious.
It doesn’t matter whether you inherited your anxiety from your family or your lifestyle, or both. It’s here now, and acknowledging that instead of fighting it frees you up to learn how to manage it. Accepting it doesn’t mean giving up, either. It means you stop spending energy berating yourself for being anxious and instead learn what works for you when it comes to self-soothing says rehman patel