Thursday, February 19, 2015

5 Tips That Help Beat Anxiety

Fear is a response to a direct threat. Our ancestors, I mean the ones dealing with big animals attacking them on a daily basis, felt the real thing! In response to that, they had to fight or flight. Their body was more alert and capable of performing great physical constraints while under feelings of fear. However, nowadays, we usually don´t have to deal with bears waiting for us around the corner.

Anxiety is the anticipation of fear. We experience anxiety when we are under stress. It is the "normal" reaction to different situations. It could be a wedding, an important test or even moving. We all experience anxiety and it is necessary in order to deal with difficult situations.

The problem appears when we start to lose perspective and get into a pattern of thinking that exaggerates outcomes negatively ( fear of death with no real threat) and takes us down into a spiral that leaves us with heart palpitations, shallow breathing, upset stomach, physical weakness and other impairing symptoms.

I am not going to get more into anxiety and the different disorders that stem from it since it can be a very serious impediment that requires specific treatments. I would like to give a few helpful tips that I have used to trick my occasional encounters with this ugly thing called anxiety and sometimes even panic attacks.

  1. Mindfulness: a very simple form of meditation that puts the focus on the present moment and observes thoughts as they come and go. It calls for concentration on diaphragmatic breathing and experiencing the present moment. It is not religious and it is a technique used to calm our body and mind.
  2. Watch those negative thoughts: I mean catch them on the early stages and stop them. Do something else. Change your environment. Get busy, walk the dog, work on your plants / garden, anything that makes you think about something else and then it´ll all pass. Once you master this you will be able to feel as if you were watching a movie where your thoughts are the actual movie and sit back and say: ok so now I am thinking this... hmmm and now this ..... ahaaa... yep no.. time to do something else. Since our thoughts dictate how our body feels, negative thoughts bring negative feelings; positive thoughts bring good feelings and a healthier body (at least one with no palpitations!). Focusing on just breathing could lower blood pressure, just like laughing releases feel-good brain chemicals that lower pain. We should try to feed our brain with positive thoughts as much as possible. I don´t mean going around denying facts and living in a state of unreal bliss! I mean catching oneself thinking and observing objectively if that negative thought is serving any purpose at that specific moment and if it is objectively real. This happy go lucky book called "A Daybook of Positive Thinking" A Blue Mountain Arts Collection, is a nice one to have around.
  3. Try to talk about your thoughts to someone else: the minute you say them out loud you will start to see your thoughts somewhat ridiculous and exaggerated. It is the overdramatic part of the brain (remember  those caveman? we owe it to them!) it is the reptile brain that says: exaggerate, overreact, save yourself!! We don´t need that right at this moment. Thank you very much.
  4. Exercise: simple and we all know it improves our mood. Your body and brain will feel great and your thoughts will follow the mood.
  5. Caffeine: try to limit your daily intake. I love having coffee in the mornings and in the afternoon however if I have a third cup during the day it will definitely NOT help.

Finally, here´s a book that I enjoyed reading recently: "Don´t Sweat the Small Stuff...and it´s all small stuff" by Richard Carlson, PhD.

Oh! and there is a post by A Cup of Jo blog that is very funny which shows comics and there is one called Anxiety Girl . Please, do your self a favor and have a look. It is excellent.

Remember, when negative thoughts start coming around, first become aware of it and then "grab the remote control" in order to change the channel to a positive thoughts one.

Have you ever tried doing this? Do you have any other helpful suggestions? What works for you?

Post a Comment