I remember being supremely embarrassed to talk to my doctor about my anxiety. It seemed like everyone was complaining about being “anxious,” and I didn’t want it to seem like I was claiming I had a mental illness for attention. We’ve all heard someone claim they’re “so OCD” when really they just like things tidy, right? I didn’t want to lessen the plight of those with real mental issues with my silly worrisome thoughts.
It turns out, I do suffer from anxiety. My mind races, my heart races, I feel as though I am in a constant state of worry, and I find it hard to focus on anything as my brain spirals to an immediate worst-case scenario. My doctor informed me that not only is it OK to ask her about my symptoms, but that due to the more fast-paced lifestyle we are living in, anxiety is on the rise. If you feel like you might have anxiety, it is OK to seek help — you’re definitely not alone.
Once you’ve realized that your diagnosed anxiety disorder is not how you need to live, it’s time to work on ways to manage it. There are quick exercises that you can do before or during an anxiety attack to help assuage your symptoms and make you feel a little more like a human again.
If you are at a loss with how to cope when your anxiety acts up, try these exercises to regain control.
1. Keep Track of Your Triggers
Every time you feel your anxiety symptoms, take note of what triggered it. In the future, you can take steps to avoid these triggers or be aware that one is coming up so you’re prepared to deal with it. Having a sense of control can make your anxiety less scary — you’re the boss of your anxiety, anxiety is not the boss of you!
2. Create a Plan
When I feel anxiety creeping up on me, I pause. I take a few deep breaths, remind myself that my anxiety is only thoughts, and take a moment of quiet solitude to keep from spiraling out of control. This is something completely silent and personal that I can do if I feel myself getting overwhelmed in a meeting or out in public.
You can create an anxiety exercise like this one that works for you, though it may take a little trial and error. Maybe a few sips of cool water or excusing yourself to take a walk around the block outside helps you. Once you find a plan that works, stick to it whenever you feel anxious.
3. Have Someone to Rely On
Sometimes anxious thoughts are louder than our internal voice of reason. It’s helpful to have someone that understands your anxiety, like your mom, significant other, or your therapist. When you’re feeling out of control and need some help, send them a text that says “Hey, I’m feeling a little anxious right now, can you remind me that everything is going to be OK?” Hearing that everything is alright from another person can help bring you back to reality and quiet the anxiety monster.
4. Find Physical Relief
When we’re anxious, we tend to build up tension in our bodies. You may have tight shoulders, or be a jaw-clencher like me. Take a moment to relax each muscle and shake out any tension. A physical release can often lead to a mental one — the simple act of relaxing can help tame your anxiety.
5. Talk to Your Doctor
Of course, I’m not a medical professional. These tools help me, but they may not work for everyone. Talk to your doctor to see if a prescription medication can help you get in control of your anxiety alongside these coping exercises.