Effective Strategies for Managing & Reducing Anxiety

Updated on July 7, 2023

Dealing with anxiety can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can use to help manage and reduce its impact on your life. From establishing an exercise routine, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques to prioritizing sleep, here are a few strategies to help manage anxiety.

Educate Yourself

Feelings of unease, worry, and fear characterize anxiety. While occasional anxiety is normal and can be helpful in certain situations, such as motivating us to take action or be cautious, excessive or chronic anxiety can be debilitating and interfere with daily life. 

Symptoms can vary from person to person but range from physical to cognitive, behavioral, and emotional symptoms. This can include rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, restlessness, muscle tension, headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue. Common cognitive symptoms include excessive worrying, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelmed, and a heightened sense of danger or impending doom. Some people may also experience panic attacks, which are intense episodes of anxiety characterized by a sudden and overwhelming fear. Anxiety can influence your behavior, leading to avoidance of certain situations or places that trigger anxiety, difficulty sleeping or insomnia, irritability, social withdrawal, and changes in appetite.

Learning about anxiety and its symptoms can help you better understand what you’re experiencing. Knowing the signs can help you recognize anxious thoughts and behaviors, making it easier to address them. 

Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques

Deep breathing exercises and meditation can help calm your mind and body when you feel anxious. These techniques can reduce stress and promote a sense of relaxation. Box breathing is beneficial when you begin to feel anxiety creeping in. Box breathing consists of breathing in 4 seconds through your nose, holding your breath for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds through the mouth, holding your breath for 4 seconds, and repeating the cycle until you feel calm. After about 3-5 rounds, your nervous system will begin to regulate itself. Continue until you feel better. 

Establish a routine

Creating a structured daily routine can provide stability and predictability, which can help reduce anxiety. Physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Regular exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve your overall well-being. Find an exercise routine that fits your schedule and gently incorporate it. Check-in with yourself after a few weeks to see if that activity still brings joy. If not, choose a different physical activity such as yoga, running/ jogging, high-intensity workouts, weight lifting, walking, or dance. Make sure to create a routine that will allow you to show up. 

Prioritize sleep

Lack of sleep can significantly contribute to anxiety. Establish a regular sleep routine, create a comfortable sleep environment, and practice relaxation techniques before bed to improve the quality of your sleep. Some techniques include focusing on your breath (try box breathing), gentle massage, aromatherapy, gentle stretching or yoga, or hypnosis. This might be difficult but avoid using electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops, for at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by these devices can suppress melatonin production, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. Limit your consumption of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, particularly in the evening. These substances can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

If your anxiety becomes overwhelming or starts interfering with your daily life, consider seeking help from a therapist. They can provide guidance and support and potentially recommend therapy or medication options to manage your anxiety effectively. Everyone’s journey with anxiety is unique, so finding the best strategies for you may take time. Be patient and kind to yourself as you explore different techniques and seek the support you need.

By: Lindsey Schmid, LPC-A

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