In Australia, it has been reported that anxiety is the most common mental health condition. One in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. Across a 12-month period, evidence has shown us that over two million Australians will experience anxiety (Beyondblue.org.au).
Anxiety is bigger than feeling worried or stressed. It’s completely normal to feel anxious at times; life can be difficult and stressful! Some of us feel anxious when we have a first date, before sitting an exam, prior to an interview, during a sporting match or competitive event etc. Anxiety becomes a problem when it appears for no reason, when the feelings are long lasting or when it interferes with your daily functioning or routine.
Many of us might be guilty of trying to push aside, bottle up or turn away from the anxiety we may be experiencing. What happens when you do this? I’m sure the anxiety goes away and you notice yourself re-engaging in a task at hand. But I also guess that your anxiety re-surfaces moments or days later. Am I right?
Anxiety doesn’t just ‘disappear’ without actually spending some time working through it. It is so important to find the right strategies to support you; to ensure the work you are doing is long lasting. You will fine tune your skills and improve your confidence to learn what helps you most, in that moment, to best manage your anxiety.
It would be a good idea to first identify what your anxiety looks like / feels like.
Try completing this checklist, so you are clear how your anxiety manifests.
Write down any Physiological symptoms - i.e. shortness of breath, tightness in chest
Write down any Cognitive (thought processes) and affective (emotions) symptoms i.e. fear of having a heart attack, feeling frightened
Write down any Behavioral symptoms - i.e. avoiding social gatherings
I’d then recommend looking at identifying your triggers; what are those things which spark your anxiety? I.e: deadlines, crowds, relationship status, financial worry, childcare arrangements, your weight etc
Here are some helpful strategies which I would recommend you trial or add to your “self-care toolbox” when looking at better managing your anxiety:
- Mindfulness exercises; being present, grounding yourself, exploring thoughts/feelings/emotions with kindness. Being curious about what is happening in your body/mind. Opening up and making room for your anxiety.
- Breathing exercises; monitoring your breathing rate, engaging in breathing exercises, noticing your breath with kindness.
- Relaxation exercises; ranging from progressive muscular relaxation, to breathing, to meditation, swimming, walking, listening to music, observing a burning candle, painting, reading etc etc. Become more familiar with what helps you to unwind and relax.
- Talk it out; knowing who you trust and who makes you feel safe and talk through your anxiety.
- Write it down; using a thoughts diary, or reflective journal to document your anxiety and worrying thoughts/feelings.
- Manage your stress; avoiding excess stress, managing your work/personal commitments, keeping positive relationships, staying active, incorporating FUN into your days/weeks, remaining socially active.
- Creating a healthy routine; incorporating activities into your week surrounding work, play, relationships, physical activity, healthy eating and sleep. Be realistic and self-compassionate when creating your agenda; nothing too big or too small – achievable tasks only!
- Gratitude; expressing gratitude to yourself or others.
Those who seek help or support sooner rather than later are more likely to recover from their anxiety. So, I encourage you to adopt some of the strategies mentioned above, to work through – and allow space for - your anxiety. If your anxiety is too strong to manage on your own, please see professional help.