Release the Anxiety: How to Help Yourself When the Voices in Your Head Are Not Being Kind


M E N T A L   H E A L T H


Tasnia Shahrin

 

No matter how much of a good day you have had, it does not take more than a few seconds to forget it all and succumb to negative thoughts when anxiety hits you.

Many people consider anxiety just another form of panic attack or a general feeling of fear. However, anxiety has multiple forms through which it attacks the lives of common people and renders them exhausted.

Tanja Jovanovic, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at The Emory University School of Medicine, defines anxiety:

“Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event. A certain level of anxiety helps us stay alert and aware, but for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, it feels far from normal — it can be completely debilitating.” 

 

According to researchers Robert Finlay-Jones and George W. Brown, there are many anxiety-related disorders, and the most common ones are discussed below.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

PTSD is the most well-known trauma and anxiety related disorder which is related to the experience of a particular traumatic event, such as unexpected death of a loved one, a car accident, divorce, bullying etc. This category also includes Acute Stress Disorder and Adjustment Disorder.  

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

GAD is characterised by excessive and uncontrollable worry over events, activities, and potential negative outcomes. The anxiety causes significant distress or interfere with the individual’s daily life, occupational, academic, or social functioning to meet diagnosis.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):

OCD is another anxiety related disorder that causes repeated and persistent thoughts or ‘obsessions’, typically forming distress. Here, an individual attempts to alleviate by repeatedly performing specific actions. Examples of common obsessions include: fear of failing to do things in a particular way will result in harm to self or others, extreme anxiety about being dirty or contaminated by germs, concern over forgetting to do something important that may result in bad outcomes, or obsessions around exactness or symmetry.

 

No matter how much anti-anxiety advice one reads, none of it will matter unless one takes action. The significance of taking proper action in the right time is immense as it will help one relax, sleep soundly at night, and invest energy into what is actually good for them.

The purpose of this article is to inform the readers some ways through which one would be able to get a grip over the negative thoughts and control anxiety. The ways are listed below.

Control your breathing

It is the very basic but the most effective step. Severe anxiety symptoms are often linked to poor breathing habits. Even if you feel you can’t take a deep breath, you actually need to slow down and reduce your breathing, not speed it up or try to take deeper breaths. Take more controlled, slower breaths, using the following technique:

  • Breathe in slowly and gently through your nose for about 5 to 7 seconds.
  • Hold for about three or four seconds.
  • Breathe out slowly and gently through pursed lips like whistling, for about 7 to 9 seconds.

Find what relaxes you

Minus the temporary but often attacks of anxiety, there are already many things in your life that relax you. You may find it beneficial to make a list of things you enjoy and that help you relax, so you can reference it when symptoms of anxiety arise. For example, if you find writing or painting relaxing, don’t wait, paint an image or write a story. 

Research on your anxious thoughts

Anxiety never appears out of the blue. When you have anxiety attacks, it’s often because your mind tends to spiral into negative thoughts—often without your control. Sometimes you can control this anxiety by keeping these thoughts at bay and learning to dismiss triggers that cause you anxiety.

For many, this is easier said than done. But there are multiple strategies that may be effective if you try. These include question checklists, affirmations, maintaining a personal journal, etc.

Music

Music can have a powerful effect on your mood and anxiety. The key, however, is to not just choose songs you like, but also to make sure that you are listening to music that represents the way you want to feel. Happy or relaxing music can directly impact your mood and the way you feel.

Grounding techniques

When you are feeling anxious or having a panic attack, knowing grounding techniques can help you feel more in control. There are two popular methods for grounding yourself and you can practice them when you are not feeling anxious so that when symptoms do arise these techniques come naturally.

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: People who experience anxiety are often holding tension in their body throughout the day. By learning to release that tension and feel relaxed, you can combat feelings of anxiety as they arise.
  • Body Scan: The purpose of this grounding technique is to help you raise awareness of your body and what is going on in it. The focus is not on the feelings of good, bad, painful, pleasurable etc, but rather on you noticing the existence of sensation (tingling, warmth, tightness, etc).

 

There is no rapid cure for anxiety, as it is a natural reaction to human experiences. However, when your anxiety is interfering with daily life, it is an alarming problem. Learning to recognise symptoms, triggers, and working to manage them is definitely good as a first step to combat anxiety. Then the step of seeking therapy to address root causes for one’s anxiety, is very crucial.

At the end of the day, you are your own soldier. Learning healthy coping skills like the things discussed above, can start you on the right track for diminishing anxiety issues and leading a happier, healthier life.

 

Citation

Finlay-Jones, R., & Brown, G. W. (1981). Types of stressful life events and the onset of anxiety and depressive disorders. Psychological medicine, 11(4), 803-815.

 


The writer, a proud Slytherin, is a part of TDA Editorial Team.

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