Anxiety can be a deeply destabilizing and disempowering condition. If find your nerves getting in the way of the kind of life you really want, it can be easy to simply reach for whatever will help soften the fearful feelings and make you feel back in control. While it is understandable why someone suffering from anxiety might look to drugs or alcohol to get through an anxious situation, the truth is that it causes more problems than it seems to fix.
The effects of alcohol or drugs are only short-term, do not deal with the root causes of your anxiety, and can easily lead to dependency that only increases fear. Here are a few alternative ways of relieving anxiety, that truly build up your inner strength and help you make it through.
Care For Your Body:
Your mind and your body are intimately connected, and so whatever happens to one will be felt in the other. You experience this often in a “panic attack,” that is felt by both the mind and the body. Routines of taking care of your body, avoiding alcohol, nicotine, sugar, and caffeine, along with regular exercise and sleep can all help your body feel at its best, which can in turn help to manage anxiety.
Take a Breath:
Anxiety is often rooted in false fears and unwarranted catastrophic thinking. Your brain might tell you that things are falling apart, when the truth is that things are ok, and that you have everything under control. A large part of what it means to manage anxiety is broadening your focus outside of your head, getting your attention to things other than your fears.
Many therapists, meditation teachers, and anxiety sufferers have found that your breath is one of the most effective ways to bring your attention back to the present. Slow, conscious deep breathing can be a very effective way to help calm your body and mind, and should be practiced at 10-minute intervals throughout your day, again and again, until it becomes an automatic response to managing the rising pressure of anxiety.
From slowed breath, you can also close your eyes, and shift your awareness to what you are feeling in that particular moment. The breath can be a very effective tool to give you mindful awareness of the present, learning that you can have control over your response to the environment.
Choose Not to Listen to Worry:
Everyone occasionally gets fearful or worrisome thoughts, that things they care about will fail, that something bad might happen, that they are unloved or inadequate. If you simply mindlessly give into these thoughts, it can easily make you miserable and disempowered. But the good news is that you don’t have to listen to all those voices in your head. When you have an anxiety-producing thought, imagine it as a “visitor” entering into your head. This helps you recognize it has something outside of yourself, that you can choose to ignore. Talk back to the anxious thought. If you are feeling a sense of failure, remind yourself of a time you did things well. In this way, you are facing the untruth, and asserting your worthiness.
Take Time to Enjoy Yourself:
Sometimes you simply need to break a pattern of exhaustion, hard work, and anxiety. As much as possible, try to make some time where you can simply “be” in the world free of any anxiety and worry. This means finding something relaxing, fun, and refreshing that can help to regain a sense that life is worth living, and that you are free to enjoy it. Give extra mental energy to “absorb” a positive experience, or something to feel grateful for. Giving extra air to the positive will help soften voices of fearfulness.
Dealing with anxiety is not easy, but ultimately these long-term ways of going into yourself are the only way to truly experience healing. Pushing them down with substance abuse or self-medicating will not solve your problems, but only make them come back later. Truly listening to and honoring yourself will help you experience the freedom you really deserve.