Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/11/2021
It's normal to have a little anxiety every now and then — will I get a good grade on this test? I hope I get this presentation right. Will my risotto ever come out right?
But when you throw in a global pandemic, changing work and lifestyles, rising fears over personal health, and the wellbeing of loved ones, feelings of anxiety are certain to rocket.
The good news is, there are proven ways to overcome anxiety, however only about 36.9% of those suffering from anxiety receive treatment.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting around 40 million adults or 18.1 percent of the population annually. Around 3.1 percent of the U.S. population lives with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
These numbers can be better managed where those living with anxiety receive the appropriate care, and practice the required habits to help overcome anxiety. We'll be checking out 6 ways to overcome anxiety, and examining the measures to take, when faced with certain anxiety-inducing situations.
In some instances, anxiety is so potent, it manifests physically. If you've ever experienced shortness of breath, increased heart rate, blushing, sweating and sometimes trembling from anxiety, these are the physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder manifesting.
To overcome these feelings, here are 6 things as recommended by the ADAA, that you can do to help:
It's very easy to get sucked into a worry hole, constantly obsessing over the facts that are causing your anxiety.
Taking some time out to practise yoga, visit loved ones, meditate, listen to a relaxing podcast or engage in relaxing techniques like deep breathing.
These measures can provide short-term relief necessary to clear your head.
What you have for lunch and the snacks you nibble on throughout the day may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
However, your diet could play a direct role in anxiety problems. Research shows that your diet can affect anxiety.
Diets high in processed or fried foods, refined grains, beer and sugary products were may be correlated with anxiety disorders.
Consuming a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, fish,lamb, beef and wholegrain foods has been shown to reduce the risk of anxiety.
Likewise, consuming copious amounts of alcohol could affect your mental health, worsening anxiety.
Living with an alcohol dependence is proven to worsen anxiety disorders. However, consuming a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, fish, lamb, beef and wholegrain foods has been shown to reduce the risk of anxiety.
Your morning coffee may give you that extra oomph to get started on your day. However, when coffee intake gets excessive — think six cups and above — there may be an increased risk of worsening anxiety. Restricting your coffee intake to a moderate amount of less than 6 cups may help in managing your anxiety symptoms.
Give a little nod if getting inadequate sleep has ever left you feeling irritable and unmotivated. In the same vein, sleep disturbances like insomnia are present as a link to anxiety disorders and complaints.
Steering clear of caffeine, engaging in physical activity during the day, and avoiding television/bright lights close to bedtime can be helpful in improving sleep and sleep quality.
An improvement in sleep quality can do your mental health and wellness a world of good.
There’s a reason mustering the strength to work up a sweat always leaves you feeling great — it’s called endorphins. Engaging in regular exercise: running, swimming, hiking etc, encourages the production of this feel-good hormone. Endorphins have been shown to greatly improve the mood, and have been useful in notable improvements for anxiety, depression and overall mood.
Should you ever feel overwhelmed by your feelings of anxiety, it is always advisable to visit a mental health professional. Using their expertise, appropriate treatments will be recommended, depending on the diagnosis.
One of such likely treatments is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Two of the most common CBT treatment methods are exposure and cognitive therapy, methods which have shown great promise in treating OCD, PTSD, panic disorders, Generalized Anxiety Disorders and Social Anxiety Disorders.
However, while these measures are great for a general approach to anxiety, there are certain ‘fight or flight’ inducing situations we find ourselves in, whether it be having to speak publicly, driving a car, relating with colleagues or even a significant other. We’ll be examining these instances and the best ways to handle them to manage anxiety.
Anxiety while driving may arise for any number of reasons: a past traumatic incident such as an accident, being on the receiving end of road rage, driving through terrible weather conditions etc. It may also arise from a fear of going too fast and losing control, or getting lost in an unfamiliar location.
These are perfectly understandable reasons to get anxious. To overcome these fears, the first thing to do is: identify the specific reason for your fear. After this, list out all the reasons you would like to drive freely, without worrying about it.
The next step is to get help. Because of how serious the fear of driving can be, professional assistance may be needed to properly overcome it. A CBT therapist can help you deal with the thoughts causing these fears, as well as providing the skills to relax your mind and body when driving.
Your workplace could double as the “anxiety zone” for all the pressures it can bring — deadlines, hostile colleagues, navigating COVID-19 and the changing workspace etc.
To help manage your wellbeing in the workplace, simple changes to make can include informing your employers about your peculiar anxiety needs.
This may be to allow for certain provisions to be made on your behalf, or to simply inform your colleagues about your condition. Educating yourself about the nature of your anxiety disorder may also help to keep you a step ahead, in times of a crisis.
In dealing with deadlines and a heavy workload, you can’t go wrong with proper time management, ample organization and sometimes, just simply saying ‘no’ to unrealistic workloads.
Very importantly — taking the time to eat healthy, practice relaxation techniques and use up your vacation time (seriously!), can help to overcome anxiety at work.
Navigating a relationship can be hard, but navigating a relationship in the wake of a once in a lifetime pandemic? Cue the anxiety.
To help overcome relationship anxiety, especially in these trying times, make sure to communicate openly with your partner about challenges you, or the relationship may be going through.
Learn to recognize the triggers and factors that spark conflict in the relationship, be sure not to avoid and talk through them where possible.
Likewise, paying attention to your partner’s moods overtime, can give a better understanding of their personality and any triggers to their anxiety.
Finding a therapist to help navigate the rockier issues that spark anxiety, relationship anxiety and depression could help with managing and overcoming relationship anxiety, as will joining an online group for anxiety.
An easy trigger for anxiety is having people sit, listen and assess the words you utter during a speaking engagement. The fear of public speaking is a common social phobia experienced by many.
Now, you've probably heard the old trick of imagining your listeners in toilet seats to overcome anxiety, but a better approach may be found in choosing to focus on your assignment, which is to impart your audience with something of value, refusing to think negative thoughts, focusing instead on having a successful talk.
Preparing and practicing your material beforehand will also help to boost confidence and keep anxiety at bay, imagining the audience as friends, as opposed to scary strangers will also keep you comfortable. While preparing to speak publicly, it will also be beneficial to practice relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing and meditation.
Anxiety is as scary as it is common. It can have you fearing the start of a new day, obsessing over the most unlikely of situations, and also hampering your ability to enjoy common, everyday situations like driving.
But living with anxiety doesn’t have to be a lifelong condition. With lifestyle changes in diet, exercising, rest, while seeking out professional help where necessary, it is very possible to overcome anxiety.
Sometimes, no matter how much we train ourselves away from our anxieties, we still need some help — and that’s perfectly okay. There are plenty of medications out there to help treat anxiety, from benzodiazepines like Valium® and Klonopin®, to SSRIs like Prozac® and many others in between.
Even if you’re anxiety isn’t chronic, there are medications out there also sometimes prescribed to treat one-off instances of performance anxiety.
Beta-blockers like propranolol, which are typically used to treat heart conditions like high blood pressure or angina, are also sometimes prescribed off-label to help treat issues like performance anxiety.
It’s typically prescribed in anywhere from 10mg to 80mg doses, taken a few hours before stressful events — a work presentation, a first date, a stressful flight, a musical performance, etc. — in order to provide momentary relief from the symptoms of performance anxiety.
If you’re interested in learning more about using propranolol for performance anxiety, your first move is to talk to a healthcare professional about whether or not it’s the right move for you.
Anxiety disorders affect tens of millions of people every year in the U.S., and treating them definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.
Luckily, as shown above, you have plenty of help — whether that means incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine, making some diet and lifestyle changes, seeking professional help or even relying on science-backed medication.
Suffering from anxiety doesn’t have to be a battle fought alone. If you want to learn more about anxiety and what causes it, check out our guide to recognizing symptoms of anxiety.
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