Whether you're one of the 40 million American adults who are currently suffering from an anxiety disorder, or you generally only feel anxious during periods of major life changes, (such as big moves, career changes, and breakups) we all have to learn how to deal with anxiety throughout our lives. Even the most emotionally healthy people struggle with anxiety and anxious feelings from time to time, so it's definitely nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, some amount of anxiety and stress can actually be good for you, because the right amount of fear keeps us safe and motivates us to achieve our goals. That said, more often than not, anxiety is both debilitating and miserable — which is why it's important to know what to remember when you're feeling anxious.
In my personal experience, if you're dealing with consistent, intense flare-ups in your anxiety levels, your brain is probably trying to tell you to make a change in your life. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that bad relationships, high-stress jobs, and even poor diets can contribute to increased anxiety.
That said, sometimes we feel anxious for no apparent reason at all. Other times, we may know why we're feeling anxious without knowing why we're feeling quite as anxious as we are. When this happens, it's important to know what you should remember when you're feeling anxious.
1. It's OK To Let Yourself Feel Anxious
Feeling anxious is never pleasant, but if you refuse to accept your anxiety, you'll only make it worse. Trying to deny that your anxiety exists, or trying to get rid of it the second it flares up, will only make your anxiety seem more daunting. As Psych Central puts it, "Acceptance is critical because trying to wrangle or eliminate anxiety often worsens it."
If your initial reaction to anxiety is to deny it, you're basically telling yourself that your anxiety is intolerable, and this idea will only make it harder for you to deal with your anxious feelings.
2. Your Anxious Feelings Will Pass
This one can be really challenging to remember when you're feeling super anxious, but it's true. Feelings are fleeting, and they can't physically hurt you, so sometimes the best thing you can do is just wait them out. It may take longer than you like for your anxious feelings to go away, but they've gone away before, and they'll go away again.
3. You've Handled Your Anxiety Before & You Can Handle It Now
If you've dealt with anxious feelings at all throughout your life, and you probably have, then you've undoubtedly developed a few ways to cope with your anxiety. Keep a mental (or physical, if you prefer) list of all the ways you've successfully combated your anxiety in the past. This way, the next time you feel anxious you'll have a list of all the ways you can start to feel better. The same coping mechanisms may not work every single time you feel anxious, but it's worth a shot. If one of your usual coping mechanisms doesn't work, try a new one.
Personally, nothing helps me relieve anxiety like going for a long walk or hitting the gym. Which brings us to...
4. Moving Will Help
I'm sure you already know that exercise can greatly reduce anxiety and stress, but that doesn't mean you have to go running every time you're feeling anxious. A relaxing walk will allow you to move, clear your mind, and get some fresh air simultaneously. If you're not feeling up to braving winter weather, know that cleaning your apartment, dancing around your bedroom to Queen Bey's 711, playing with your pet, doing some restorative yoga poses, and even masturbating are all healthy ways you can alleviate your anxiety without having to leave your home.
5. ... And Being Productive Will Probably Help, Too
I realize that anxiety can be so overwhelming sometimes that the only thing you'll initially feel capable of focusing on is binge-watching your favorite show and stress-eating donuts. Additionally, sometimes a chill night of being unproductive is exactly what we all need. Trust me, I've been there. That said, sometimes doing nothing but relaxing can exacerbate anxiety, whereas crossing a few items off of your to-do list can help you feel more accomplished, capable, and in control of your own life and feelings. Plus, forcing yourself to focus on a productive task will give your brain and body a break from the stress of feeling anxious.
6. Breathing Techniques Are Your Friend Right Now
Being mindful of your breathing is so important when you're anxious, because deep breathing actually helps your body to relax and recover after it's gone through the adrenaline-spiking "fight-or-flight" response that fear and anxiety triggers. So the next time you're feeling anxious, remember to focus on your breathing. I can't tell you how many times I've caught myself literally holding my breath during a period of extreme anxiety, and it only makes my anxiety that much worse.
7. Your Anxiety Might Be Trying To Tell You Something
Like I said before, sometimes anxiety seems to serve no real purpose, and if you have an anxiety disorder, then you already know your anxious feelings are generally not circumstantial. But if you're not dealing with an anxiety disorder, and you've been taking care of yourself physically, then you need to consider the possibility that your anxious feelings are trying to tell you to make some changes in your life.
Some of the most stressful years of my life were caused, in part, because I wouldn't listen to what my anxiety was telling me. If your relationship, your job, your spending habits, your sleeping habits, or any other part of your life is unhealthy, they could be what's causing you too feel so anxious. Pay attention to what's triggering your anxious feelings, because if you listen to what your anxiety is trying to tell you, it just might help you create a better life for yourself.