Full disclosure: I often experience anxiety, and I’ve only just started being more open about it.
At first, I was worried people would somehow think less of me once they learned about my internal battles. As it turns out, people are much more understanding than you think. Especially because more people than you realise are also struggling with their mental health.
In fact, according to Mind, 1 in 4 of us experience mental health problems in the UK. And it’s comforting to know that many people are in the same boat as me or have been in the past.
I mean, I used to be the girl that would spend hours worrying what people thought of me. The girl that felt emotionally distressed for weeks before a big university presentation. The girl that felt constantly overwhelmed with life on a daily basis.
At 28 years old, I’m in no way cured, but I feel like I finally have some sort of control over my anxiety.
I know the warning signs before a huge bout hits, I know what to do to ease my symptoms and I know that it’s only a matter of time before my anxiety disappears again.
That’s why I wanted to share the following 10 tips that have helped me massively over the years when it comes to coping with anxiety, so they can help you too!
1. Recognise Your Triggers
First things first, I now know that there are certain things that can trigger my anxiety.
This awareness has come with age, but it’s useful to be able to pinpoint what it is that’s making me feel anxious so I can address it head-on.
For instance, big social group situations with new people has always been an obstacle for me on my path to anxiety-free living. There’s something about being put on the spot in large groups that makes me feel like a shy little girl on her first day of primary school.
The first step to recovery or a better way of coping with anxiety is to identify what is making you feel like your heart is racing a million beats per minute in your chest. Is it social situations? Your physical health? How you look in your underwear?
Once you’ve got more of an idea what your triggers are, you can start combating them with targeted techniques to work towards a better you.
2. Be Kind to Yourself
Like me, a lot of anxiety sufferers are super self-critical and often talk to themselves in a negative, condescending way.
For instance, I used to tell myself I was an idiot if I got tongue-tied in a social situation.
Was I really an idiot though? Of course not. We all struggle to get our words out sometimes when we’re stressed or tired. We’re only human.
That’s why you have to try to be kinder to yourself when coping with anxiety, challenge any negative criticism going on inside your head and talk to yourself internally as if you’re talking to a friend.
And if you commit to doing these three things, you’ll soon find that you have a whole new (more positive) mindset.
3. Remember Your Thoughts Are Not Real
One thing that has helped my anxiety improve a huge amount recently is the idea that your thoughts are not real.
By this, I mean that the negative thoughts that pop into your head need to be stopped in their tracks. You need to separate real life from the reality that your mind is telling you.
Like when my mind was telling me I was an idiot for getting tongue-tied in a meeting, for example.
The truth is: your mind has a habit of honing in on the negative when it’s not 100% happy. That’s why it’s important to challenge these unhelpful thoughts that are only trying to bring you down even more.
You have to show your mind who’s boss and never ever give in.
4. Allow Yourself a Worry Window
Some of us anxiety sufferers could sit and worry for hours if you let us! However, you don’t need me to tell you that this isn’t exactly healthy.
It’s okay to worry and not be okay, just try to control the amount of worry that you’re doing on a daily basis.
To combat this, construct yourself a worry window. This is ten minutes of the day where you’re allowed to worry, and then simply don’t allow yourself to worry the rest of the time.
If you feel a worry coming on afterwards, stop that bad boy in its tracks and tell it that you will deal with it tomorrow in your next worry window.
I know it’s easier said than done, but give this technique a try. Once you get the hang of it, believe it or not, it actually works.
(In your face, worry!)
5. Clear Your Mind with Exercise
Spoiler alert: exercise often eases my anxiety like nothing else.
Sure, working out at the gym or going to a Zumba class helps you to stay in shape, but it also massively clears the mind. This is because exercise releases feel-good hormones called endorphins, which helps to improve your mood and make you feel good.
Whether you do it once per day or three times per week, my advice is to exercise whenever you can to keep the anxiety monster at bay.
And you can thank me for this tip later!
6. Take Some Time Out for You
Self-care is also extremely important as a way of coping with anxiety.
Whether it’s taking a long, hot bubble bath, watching hours of Netflix or participating in your hobby, make sure you do whatever makes your heart happy. And do it regularly.
In a world of smartphones and social media, it’s possible to feel burned out on a weekly basis. However, regular “me” time helps to keep your feet on the ground and can quiet a mind that’s continuously overloaded.
It might sound simple, but it really does help. Why not give it a go today?
7. Join a Support Group
Now, I realise that joining a support group can be extremely difficult for us worry warts. In fact, it might only make us worry more!
However, who says that the support group needs to be a physical group that you attend on a weekly basis?
Support groups can also be people you meet on Twitter with similar conditions. They can be your closest friends and family members or online communities that specialise in mental health.
As long as you’ve got your own army of people that you feel safe opening up to and can chat to about what you’re going through, your anxiety really doesn’t stand a chance.
It sounds cliche, but talking is a tonic. As tempting as it might be, don’t keep everything bottled up as it will only prove detrimental to your mental health in the long-run.
8. Read Self-Help Books
Self-help books are a lifesaver for coping with anxiety. I swear I have like, a million.
Some self-help books are anxiety-focused, whereas some are just about living your best life. Either way, reading them on a regular basis really helps me to stay calm.
With anxiety, the more you learn about it, the easier is gets. Knowledge is power. Therefore, make sure you read up on those self-help books pronto!
9. Confront Your Fears
For those of us who have anxiety pertaining to particular situations (i.e. me in big social group settings), the best way to overcome it is to put yourself in that situation.
This is called “exposure therapy” and is known to be extremely effective.
I’m still working on keeping my anxiety under control during my trigger situations, but I don’t actively avoid them. That’s the worst thing I could do.
Why? Well, it will only reinforce my negative thoughts and I’ll never be able to see that the situation isn’t as scary as I thought.
Generally speaking, you have to put yourself in an anxiety-provoking situation so you can give yourself the opportunity to kick its little hiney.
It might take a wee while to get the hang of but, if you take it one step at a time, you’re guaranteed to make progress.
10. Speak to a Professional
If all else fails, your worry is seriously taking over on a daily basis and you’ve forgotten just how beautiful life is, then it might be time to get some professional help.
FYI, there’s absolutely no shame in asking for help as everyone needs it sometimes. In fact, it’s the bravest thing you could do.
Whether you visit your GP or go to a counsellor, it’s important to reach out to those who can help you manage your anxiety better.
It might seem daunting at first but, once you’ve taken that first step, you’ll be so relieved. Trust me.
And, once you hit rock bottom, the only way is up.
Coping with Anxiety: Final Thoughts
It’s always super difficult coping with anxiety, whether you’ve been experiencing it for two months or two years.
That said, keep learning about it, take small steps to aid your recovery and don’t ever lose your desire to work on yourself.
Even though you might find that your anxiety still flares up every now and again, you’ll ultimately be able to manage it better. And this will result in a healthier, happier life.
What are your tips for coping with anxiety? Let me know in the comments below!