By Elizabeth Burns
Since some level of stress and anxiety is inevitable, we can all benefit from learning to address feelings of worry or uncertainty as they arise. No matter what your level of anxiety, the first steps to coping with the symptoms are similar. While it is certainly not easy, the process of managing and reducing anxiety starts with some very basic ideas:
1) Relax and breathe.
First, learn to observe your body and mind when you begin to feel anxious. Can you put a name on what you are feeling? What does it feel like in your body? What thoughts are going through your mind? It is important to get to know what your anxiety looks and feels like so you can be acknowledge when it is happening. Relaxation and breathing exercises, such as mindfulness meditation, can teach us to observe our thoughts without getting carried away by them. Mindfulness is a popular idea in psychology and mental health so there is plenty of information online and in the community. Here’s one place to start.
We all know that we should exercise … but did you know that there is scientific evidence that says exercise can reduce anxiety? Check out this New York Times article for some interesting studies on exercise and anxiety. Consistency is important; find 30 minutes each day and make exercise a part of your routine. Making exercise a priority and placing it on your schedule can help make sure it happens. You might also invite a friend to work out with you!
3) Eat right!
It’s not surprising that what we put into our body impacts the way we react to the world. Edmund J. Bourne, author of The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, suggests that foods such as caffeine, nicotine, refined sugars and salt (as well as many other things we already know we shouldn’t eat) can aggravate levels of anxiety. Try to create and stick to a healthy diet for a few months and track how your levels of anxiety change over time.
As you can see, the first steps toward reducing anxiety are things you probably already know you should do. Unfortunately, there is no magic for erasing stress and worry from our lives. Start with some of these basics and if you need more guidance or if your symptoms are interfering with your day-to-day life, call Counseling Services (312) 369-8700 to make an appointment with a therapist. You can also check out Emotional Education, a group offered by Counseling Services, which meets each Tuesday and Thursday at noon at 731 S. Plymouth Court.
Bourne, E. J. (2000). The anxiety & phobia workbook Third edition. Oakland,
CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Reynolds, G. (2009, November 18). Phys ed: Why exercise makes you less
anxious. New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/phys-ed-why-exercise-makes-you-less-anxious/
Davis, J. L. (2009, December, 31). Coping with anxiety. Retrieved f http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/coping-with anxiety?page=2
By Elizabeth Burns