advice from my experiences
My anxiety sneaks up on me at random times throughout the day. Some days it’ll be on my way to school and other days it’ll be at home. When I first started experiencing anxiety it took a toll on my health; however, I now use some techniques I've learned along my journey to help with my experiences with anxiety.
Understand what anxiety and panic attacks are and why they happen. A
panic attack is a sudden onset of fear and discomfort that lasts a few
minutes. Symptoms of a panic attack include increased heart rate,
sweating, shortness of breath, and trembling. Panic attacks are often
caused by excessive stress from our unpredictable lives but they can
also be caused by medical conditions or traumatic events. Anxiety
attacks involve fear of a specific trigger such as an upcoming event or
a health problem.
Once you understand what anxiety and panic attacks are, you can recognize when it is happening and find a comfortable space to calm yourself down.
Recognize that you are having a panic or anxiety attack. Remind yourself that it is not harmful, and by recognizing that you are having one you are taking away the fear involved. Acknowledge that your body will take a few minutes to get your adrenaline levels back to normal and reassure yourself that what you are feeling is temporary and will pass.
Hyperventilating is a symptom of anxiety and although it has been said over and over again, it really helps to take deep breaths and let your mind drift off. Focus on something around you or on you, such as your fingers nails. While focusing on that one object, take in deep breaths through your nose and out your mouth. While taking deep breaths, assure yourself that you are okay.
Try to limit the consumption of coffee, cigarettes and alcohol. Any drink with a lot of caffeine will make you feel jittery and may ultimately be what is triggering your anxiety. Cigarettes and alcohol have also been linked to increasing anxiety levels, although they may calm you down at first, later on will they will make you feel jittery, contributing to your anxiety.
Anxiety and panic attacks often come from visual triggers that overwhelm you. Close your eyes and allow yourself to visualize something positive. Picture something you love doing whether it is painting in your room or riding a bike around the neighbourhood. This positive mental image will help you relax and calm down after experiencing anxiety.
If possible, take a walk. Sometimes when we sit in one spot for too
long, we start to overthink. This is why a quick 5-minute walk around
the neighbourhood can help you calm down and focus on other things like
nature or that weird looking house you’ve never noticed before.
Another technique I’ve found to be helpful is the common 3-3-3 challenge. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, whether in public or in private, look around and name 3 objects you see, 3 sounds you hear and finally, move 3 of your body parts. This challenge helps you calm down and gets your mind to slow down a bit.
Taking control over your anxiety takes time and practice, it is not something you can control after one try. Continue practicing the techniques that you believe work best for you in order to strengthen them and relieve your anxiety. For more tips check out Improving Your Mood on the next page.
One of the most important factors of your mood is your diet. What you eat can contribute to how you feel. Try staying away from caffeine and sugary foods/drinks as they can affect your mood. This doesn’t mean you can’t have anything that contains sugar or caffeine ( I love my morning coffee) but limit it to a small amount. Some healthy and nutritious options I enjoy are mangos, hummus, brocolli, pretzels and grilled chicken.
Organize your thoughts. Make charts of things that worry you, for example a school and work schedule for the next week or a to-do list for the month. Organizing information in a chart can help put your mind at ease and give you a sense of control over things in your life. Organizing also helps you focus on other aspects of your life by reducing your worry and giving you some free time and energy to improve your life in other areas.
Sleep plays an important role in your mood. Harvard Sleep Studies have studied the effects sleep has on one's mood. Researchers found that even slight sleep deprivation has a correlational effect on your mood. Not enough sleep can cause irritability and stress, while sleeping for at least 7 hours can enhance your mood. Create a sleep schedule that allows you to have around 7 hours of sleep. When getting ready to sleep, stay away from caffeinated and sugary foods/drinks. Also make sure to stay away from bright lights or screens.
From experience anyone can say that exercising makes you feel good. The reason why you should start exercising regularly is that exercise actually increases your level of endorphins. Endorphins are natural mood lifters. Exercise can also help improve your mood by getting your sleep patterns back to normal. Regularly exercising can also reduce stress and symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
Writing is a great way to improve your mood and mental health. Purchase or make a journal for writing things down (If needed Amel's Circle can deliver one to you for free). Writing down your thoughts and feelings helps you gain control of your emotions while improving your mental health. If you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, writing in a journal is a good way to alleviate some of those feelings by expressing and understanding them more clearly.
Many people claim that taking a hot bath helps improve their mood, but
is it true? Studies show that heating up your body assists in muscle
relaxation which in return boosts your mood. Researchers at the
University of Freiburg in Germany discovered a correlation that by
regularly increasing people’s body temperatures they were able to
improve their internal clock which resulted in lessening some of their
symptoms of depression. From experience, when I get into a bad mood,
taking a hot bath has always made me calm down and think more clearly.
To read more about this, check out the Website Library.
Our perception of the control we have in our lives can affect our ability to cope. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by your thoughts try to reframe them. For instance, instead of thinking “I am always going to fail” try reframing to “this wasn’t my best attempt but there is always another chance”. Remind yourself that everyday there is a new opportunity to try again.
What Is Mindfulness? Mindfulness is a way of learning to relate
differently to one’s own mind. To practice mindfulness you should:
1.Attend closely to a bodily sensation (I focus on the air coming into my nose)
2.When a mental event arises simply notice it without judgment or elaboration (don't think about whether it's good or bad)
3. Become aware of your surroundings (sounds, smells etc.) then embrace your thoughts. For example, when thinking about something you said last night don't think of it as good or bad, it happened, it passed and now it is over.
4.Return attention back to the bodily sensation
If you feel your mind is starting to race, focus back on your bodily sensation and start to slowly let your thoughts in again.
What mindfulness attempts to do is form a mode of attention that is first anchored to the present-moment attention, rather than one that is constantly being swept away by thought streams of past events or future anticipations.
A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation vs relaxing training by Shamini Jain, Shauna L. Shapiro, Summer Swanick, Scott C. Roesch, Paul J. Mills, Iris Bell and Gary E.R Swartz demonstrates the effects on distress, positive states of mind, rumination and distraction. The study found that practicing mindfulness meditation assists in reducing distress and increases your own positive state of mind.