Most of us experience anxiety from time to time, but for some, that anxiety can end up destroying our quality of life. It’s normal to worry about certain things, but when that worry consumes your thoughts, affects your sleeping and/or eating patterns, and generally becomes all-consuming, it’s time to do something about it.
Here are 7 practical ways to deal with anxiety that’s driving you to distraction.
7 tips for managing anxiety
1. Halve your problem
There’s a good reason that people say ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Confiding in someone you trust is the first step towards identifying the root of your anxiety and beginning to tackle it. Often, something that seems insurmountable to us needs to be looked at from a different angle – something that someone with a different perspective can help us to do.
2. Chat to your doctor
If your anxiety is preventing you from managing your day-to-day life, you may need therapy and/or medication to help bring it under control. There’s no shame in needing either or both of these things, and taking care of your mental health is no different to taking care of your physical well-being. Start by visiting your GP or clinic, or talking to a counsellor at school, varsity or college.
3. Distract yourself
Plan short activities that you feel you can manage, like going for a bicycle ride or watching a movie, to provide you with little pockets of distraction. Figure out what works for you, and what has been helpful in the past.
4. Challenge the thoughts that are causing anxiety
Usually, anxious thoughts focus on worst-case scenarios. Interrogate these thoughts and try to work out whether they’re rational (for example, ‘If I don’t study, I could fail my exam and may have to repeat the year’, which is rational, versus ‘If I don’t study, I’ll fail the year and I’ll never get a job and I could become homeless.’). Try to begin developing more realistic beliefs based on logic rather than emotion like fear.
5. Try to find a practical solution to the problem
The thing about worry is that it tends to trap us in an endless cycle, and as awful as it feels, it’s often the only thing an anxious person knows how to feel. Give yourself permission to free your mind from your anxiety by searching for a solution to the problem. By speaking to a trusted friend, family member, teacher, doctor or counsellor, you may begin to find the solution(s) you need.
6. Avoid using alcohol or illegal drugs to deal with your anxiety
Although drinking and/or using drugs may assuage your negative feelings in the moment, they’re likely to compound them when you sober up. Alcohol and drugs help us to escape reality for a short time, but are not a solution to our problems, and in fact, often make them worse.
7. Don’t blame yourself
The most important thing to remember is that the way you’re feeling isn’t your ‘fault’, and that blaming yourself isn’t the answer. Anxiety is a disorder that requires treatment just like any medical ailment, and blaming yourself will not make it better.
Don’t be afraid to seek medical help
If anxiety is ruining your quality of life and you don’t know where to turn, don’t be shy to seek help. Mental health issues affect millions of people, and there is no shame in asking for support. There are plenty of affordable and even free options available, and your GP or clinic will be able to point you in the right direction.
You deserve a better quality of life, so make an appointment to see your doctor, and start to receive the treatment you need to feel better.