Having occasional feelings of anxiety is a normal part of life, but people with anxiety disorders experience frequent and excessive anxiety, fear, terror and panic in everyday situations. These feelings are unhealthy if they affect your quality of life and prevent you from functioning normally.
Common symptoms of anxiety disorders include:
- Feeling nervous
- Feeling helpless
- A sense of impending panic, danger or doom
- Increased heart rate
- Obsessively thinking about the panic trigger
These feelings of anxiety and panic can interfere with daily activities and be difficult to control. They are out of proportion to the actual danger and can cause you to avoid places or situations.
You should see your health care provider if your anxiety is affecting your life and relationships. Your provider can help rule out any underlying physical health issue before seeing a mental health professional.
While most people with anxiety disorders need psychotherapy or medications to get anxiety under control, lifestyle changes and coping strategies also can make a difference.
Here are 11 tips for coping with an anxiety disorder:
- Keep physically active.
Develop a routine so that you’re physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It can improve your mood and help you stay healthy. Start out slowly, and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activities.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs.
These substances can cause or worsen anxiety. If you can’t quit on your own, see your health care provider or find a support group to help you.
- Quit smoking, and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages.
Nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.
- Use stress management and relaxation techniques.
Visualization techniques, meditation and yoga are examples of relaxation techniques that can ease anxiety.
- Make sleep a priority.
Do what you can to make sure you’re getting enough sleep to feel rested. If you aren’t sleeping well, talk with your health care provider.
- Eat healthy foods.
A healthy diet that incorporates vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish may be linked to reduced anxiety, but more research is needed.
- Learn about your disorder.
Talk to your health care provider to find out what might be causing your specific condition and what treatments might be best for you. Involve your family and friends, and ask for their support.
- Stick to your treatment plan.
Take medications as directed. Keep therapy appointments and complete any assignments your therapist gives. Consistency can make a big difference, especially when it comes to taking your medication.
- Identify triggers.
Learn what situations or actions cause you stress or increase your anxiety. Practice the strategies you developed with your mental health provider so you’re ready to deal with anxious feelings in these situations.
- Keep a journal.
Keeping track of your personal life can help you and your mental health provider identify what’s causing you stress and what seems to help you feel better.
Don’t let worries isolate you from loved ones or activities.
Your worries may not go away on their own, and they may worsen over time if you don’t seek help. See your health care provider or a mental health provider before your anxiety worsens. It’s easier to treat if you get help early.
Siri Kabrick is a nurse practitioner in Behavioral Health in Fairmont, Minnesota