Around 40 million people in the United States alone have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders or chronic anxiety. And that’s just the people who have been treated or diagnosed. Statistics estimate that the real number is about 30% of the population. Anxiety has become the #1 mental health issue in North America. Anxiety is real, folks, and it is serious.
What is Anxiety?
Before we can talk about ways to get rid of anxiety, we first need to understand it. According to Healthline anxiety is a normal, even healthy, bodily response.
“Anxiety can trigger the “flight or fight” stress response, releasing a flood of chemicals and hormones like adrenaline into your system. In the short term, this increases your pulse and breathing rate so your brain can get more oxygen. You are now prepared to respond appropriately to an intense situation. Your immune system may even get a brief boost. Your body will return to normal functioning when the stress passes.”
God gave us this anxiety for times of duress when we need to make vital decisions for our lives and safety. The problem comes when we start to experience chronic anxiety, meaning we get anxious when the situation is not life or death and doesn’t actually require an immediate response.
What are the Signs of Anxiety?
Remember that not all anxiety is bad. Sometimes it can motivate us to do what needs to be done, like driving defensively, being watchful when we’re out alone someplace, or if we are attacked. It can even help us to solve problems. Sometimes God allows us to be anxious so that we will actually do something about it. Are you anxious because your house is a mess? Clean it! Are you anxious about making a phone call? Just do it and get it over with instead of procrastinating.
But then you have chronic anxiety and that is not healthy at all. That’s when you feel anxiety every (or nearly every) single day. This means that your body doesn’t get to relax from that anxiety, therefore it can’t recognize situations that actually require the anxiety response. Meaning, if you feel anxious every day, your body gets accustomed to being anxious. Then when something bad does happen, your body is already in a state of anxiety and so it isn’t sure how to act. It can’t warn you because your warning system is always on.
Think of it as someone riding their brakes when driving. If the person in front of me is riding their brakes the entire length of the road, how will I know when they are actually stopping until I almost slam into their bumper?
How do you know if you have chronic anxiety? We return to Healthline which says that chronic anxiety can be described with
- nervousness, irritability, restlessness
- trouble sleeping, fatigue
- trouble concentrating
And panic attacks, which are common in chronic anxiety also include
- sense of danger or doom
- trembling, dizziness, weakness
- shortness of breath
- excessive perspiration
- feeling cold or overheated
- numbness or tingling in the hands
- rapid heartbeat, palpitations
- chest pain
- rapid breathing, hyperventilating
If you can relate to one or more of these, you probably have chronic anxiety. Now that we know what it is, how can we beat it?
How Can I Beat Anxiety?
Nothing I’m about to list is going to be new to you if you struggle with chronic anxiety. But here is the trick: You have to actually do the things on this list and do them consistently. Don’t just read through them and be like, “Yeah, yeah, I know this stuff already.” Well, if you really knew it, you’d be doing it and you wouldn’t struggle so much with anxiety. And I’m not just talking to my readers, I’m talking to myself. I have to practice what I preach because, as I’ve said countless times on my blog here, I struggle daily with anxiety.
Important: You will never totally get rid of your anxiety. I’m so sorry to say that. I wish I could promise that if you do this stuff, or get drugs from your doctor, or pray unceasingly that you’ll be delivered from anxiety permanently. But that would be a lie. First, everyone deals with anxiety at some point. Second, if you have chronic anxiety it is a deep-seeded issue and, while you can break the stronghold it has over your life and you don’t need to be anxious every day, you will find it returns sometimes. However, it won’t be as prevalent as it is now. If you consistently do the things on this list, you can greatly reduce your anxiety and it doesn’t need to be a daily struggle or a way of life. So, please keep reading!
Meditation just means sitting someplace quiet and learning how to control your thoughts. Repeat a mantra or a Scripture over and over in your mind. When anxious thoughts try to come forward, you have to learn to push them out. I’ll admit, I am not very good at this, but my husband is trying to teach me to be better. Learning to meditate teaches us how to control our thoughts and calm our minds, especially when a panic attack tries to take over.
- Deep Breathing
This is actually a part of the meditation process. While you’re repeating your mantra or Scripture in your mind, you want to take slow, deep breaths and focus on them. In, out. In, out. I actually find this extremely helpful anytime, anywhere. Just the other day I had to have a TB test and I HATE needles. Once the test was over I felt a panic attack coming on, so I started breathing deeply in and out. After a few minutes, I calmed down again. This helps with anxiety and anger. If you’re in your car and getting mad at traffic or bad drivers, try your deep breathing. It will definitely help you calm down again.
Many times we get anxious because we are thinking about the future. Awareness is when we focus on right now. Calm your thoughts. Wherever you are, start to focus on your surroundings. What is around you right now? How do you feel? How does the floor feel under your feet? How is your breathing? What do you smell or hear right now? What are your hands touching? Are you in a chair? How does it feel? Just focus on being aware of right now and it will get you away from your fears about the future.
- Talk to Someone
My husband hates when I get too quiet because he knows I am probably stressing about something. He tells me to talk to him, tell him what I’m feeling, why I’m anxious. If you can’t be that open and honest with your husband, find a person you can be open and honest with, like a parent, a sibling, or a best friend. You can’t keep your feelings bottled up because they only get worse and eventually you’ll explode. I have a new e-group available so if you need someone to talk to, why not join my group? I’d love to hear from you and help you in any way I can!
Laughing not only distracts you from the problems that make you anxious, it releases endorphins into your system that helps you to relax and destress. Watch funny videos on YouTube or watch your favorite sitcom or comedian. My husband is great at making me laugh, but when even he isn’t enough I’ll find a funny show or cute YouTube video with animals and watch it to help me calm down.
It’s important to move around when you start feeling anxious. Do some yoga or a few exercises at home. Go for a walk. Go on a drive and really look at the beauty of the world around you. Sometimes even going to a mall or bookstore or wherever makes you relax can be helpful. But sitting cooped up in your room or office or whatever and constantly thinking about your problems will only increase your anxiety. You need to get moving!
- Be Thankful
Learn how to see the amazing blessings that God has placed in your life. Yes, you have problems. We all have problems and we always will, at least on this earth. But you also have a lot to be thankful for and we should all either write or say out loud everything we are thankful for. Every morning and every night I try to thank the Lord for each blessing He has given me instead of constantly complaining about my problems or asking Him to solve them. It’s okay to ask for help, but sometimes we just need to thank and praise.
- Get Healthy
My final tip is to be healthy, at least as much as it is in your power. Learn how to eat right. It doesn’t have to be expensive. My husband and I are on a tight budget, but we try to eat healthy as much as possible. Monitor your caffeine intake. If you are drinking a lot of caffeine, you may want to cut back on it. Caffeine makes anxiety a lot worse. And referring to #6, exercise daily, even if it’s only a little. Being sedentary only makes anxiety worse.
I hope all of these tips help you beat your anxiety! If you struggle with anxiety and want to tell your story, or give my readers some more tips and advice, please post in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!
I love you guys! God bless!