How to Manage Anxiety in 5 Easy Steps
Critical Tips to help you Manage Stress & Anxiety on a Daily Basis
(This post may include affiliate links to products that I use! For more information, please read my disclaimer)
Anxiety is incredibly common in the United States. In fact, over 40 million adults struggle with it each year but only 38.6% of those that are suffering receive treatment. This is crazy! So what is anxiety? How do you identify it and know if it is a problem? What can you do to manage it? And when do you receive professional help? This article will give you those answers and link to powerful resources that can help you learn how to manage anxiety.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a term used to describe feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. This is a normal response to many events in life and isn’t always a problem. An example of this would be anticipating an upcoming exam: even though you have studied and prepared, you are anxious about the event and outcome.
Another example of anxiety is when you get a text from a friend or significant other that says “we need to talk.” Ugh….pit in the stomach and feelings of anxiety making you worry and feel nervous, even if you have no reason to be! In fact, the “talk” may end up being something positive but the anticipation of what the discussion could be about makes you nervous.
However, when it becomes something more, and becomes a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, it can disrupt your life. It is termed “anxiety disorder” when those feelings are accompanied by compulsive behavior or panic “attacks” making you debilitated and unable to function.
Living with anxiety can be something that you may not even be aware of. It can manifest in ways like emotional eating, sleep disturbance, feelings of constant stress or pressure, and even impact your relationships. It isn’t until you stop and identify the problem that you realized the affect it has on your life.
Step One: Recognize Anxiety
There are some easy questions that I ask clients and patients as an “Anxiety Screening.” This is called the “Generalized Anxiety Score” (GAD-7) that is used by health professionals:
This tool should be used for screening and cannot replace a clinical assessment and diagnosis by a medical professional.
If you checked off any problems, consider how difficult have these made it for you to do your work, take care of things at home, or get along with other people? This is not part of the actual score but does help identify the level of daily impairment:
- Not difficult at all
- Somewhat difficult
- Very difficult
- Extremely difficult
What Does my Score Mean?
Scores that are greater than or equal to 10 indicate that you need to have an evaluation by a medical professional. Why? Because your feelings of anxiety can be due to an underlying medical condition, such as thyroid dysfunction or heart problems. And it indicates that your daily life is being affected significantly.
|10*-14||Moderate||Possible clinically significant condition|
|>15||Severe||Active treatment probably warranted|
Other physical ways that anxiety can cause symptoms include pounding heart, sweating, headaches, upset stomach, dizziness, shortness of breath, muscle tension, emotional eating, and insomnia. Again, you need to be evaluated by a medical professional to rule out medical causes and to discuss treatment options with severe scores and physical effects.
Step Two: Deal with Triggers
Sometimes there are easy triggers to identify: things like planning ahead if last minute craziness stresses you out! Other triggers are may be tougher to identify but difficult to change. These can take more time and planning to deal with!
Toxic relationships can come in many forms. This can be defined as a friend who is always negative and complaining. However it could be a significant other or a family member that would be more difficult to remove from your life. Whoever it is, toxic relationships can cause you anxiety. I have written an article on “How to Face your Problems with Strength” for a detailed action plan. Bottom line: you need to learn to communicate. Tell this person how they make you feel and try to resolve the issue. This may involve professional help of a counselor or mediator, and that is ok! Ask for help and work towards a change. By removing or decreasing this trigger, your management of anxiety will be much better in the long run.
Toxic Work Environment
A toxic work environment can also be an incredible source of anxiety and stress. You may have a boss that is always yelling, hours that are too demanding, increasing tasks that you cannot finish. This creates a sense of anxiety and stress that affects many aspects of your life! Bottom line: identify the triggers, develop a plan to deal with them, and generate alternatives. At the end of the day, no one wants to trade their life for money. And if you aren’t sure what type of work environment will best fit you, you can check out this article with links to free assessment tests. It may take some time and planning, but start taking action.
You will find that many of these triggers overlap. Stress in a relationship or due to work will spill into your overall health. However, if you have a good support system and good work-life balance, you can still have unexpected health issues! The easiest ones to identify are things like diet and caffeine consumption which can give you an “anxious” feeling. Other health triggers include issues with sleep or insomnia or feelings of anxiety from medication side effects.
You may even be anxious about a serious health issue, such as a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, or other chronic illness. In these instances, the best way to handle this is to work with your medical provider and develop a support network. There are some things that you can do to improve your overall health, and there are other things that will require major life changes. Positive mental health in these situations is critical. Change what you can, try your best to stay positive, and communicate/ask for help when you are feeling low. There are many great resources and you can read more about this at the NIH National Cancer Institute website. Help is out there. Don’t tackle health stressors alone.
Financial stress can trigger an incredible amount of anxiety. How am I going to pay my rent? What happens if I get injured? I wasn’t expecting my refrigerator to break…The best way to deal with financial stress is to plan. The Dave Ramsay program has helped thousands of people develop a healthy attitude towards finances. You can read more about how to “Create a Budget (with free printable)” in my previous post. By understanding how much money you need, and planning for unexpected events, your financial stress can be significantly decreased.
For many of us, social stressor can trigger anxiety. Maybe you are an introvert? A holiday party or business conference can trigger anxiety. Or you are having a difficult time with peer pressure. Are you trying to lose weight but struggling because your social network involves food constantly?
These are the types of stressors that come externally, but they don’t have to be difficult to manage! Remember, there is natural stress and anxiety but it only becomes a problem when it paralyzes us. So again, identify the trigger and try to develop a solution! Maybe go to a party with your closest friend. Communicate your fears ahead of time and ask for help! Or try to plan an event that doesn’t involve food, like a walk in the park. By identifying your triggers, it is easier to manage anxiety.
Lastly, personal stressors is a category use to encompass those triggers that apply specifically to you. It doesn’t matter what the trigger is. The importance is identifying what is causing your anxiety. You can do things like journalling to track anxiety levels and see if there is an obvious cause. Then you can develop a plan to face it head on! Use as many resources as you can to help you tackle this: support system, supplements, professional help, and self care techniques that we will discuss next.
Step Three: Incorporating Basic Self Care
There are things you can do to take care of yourself and take responsibility for your well being! By making yourself a priority, you develop reserve to be able to handle stressors and continue to give to others! We have talked about many of these basic needs on the blog, but there is a 4,000 word in-depth review of “The 5 Dimensions of Self Care” that is an excellent reference for you. Below I am highlighting aspects of self care that impact feelings of anxiousness or stress.
Sleep is one of those important functions. During sleep, our bodies complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. Too little sleep can leave you feeling emotional and anxious. For more information on the importance of sleep and how critical it is to our health, read “The Health Benefits of Sleep”
Nutrition plays an important role in the way that we feel and function. Without the proper nutrients, our bodies can’t withstand extra stress. A diet high in processed foods and sugars can make you feel sluggish, irritable, and stressed. And some foods, such as caffeine, can cause symptoms that mimic anxiety. Symptoms such as heart palpitations or difficulty sleeping can be related to nutrition, rather than underlying stress or anxiety.
Financial uncertainty causes stress and anxiety on so many levels. Not being able to plan for the future, take a vacation, or even know if you can pay your rent increases anxiety. If you would like more information about finances with step-by-step guide and free printable, read “How to Create a Budget”
Exercise is a natural stress reliever. It releases “feel good” hormones and strengthens your body. But it also promotes healthy sleep patterns and decreases anxiety! Exercise also leads to the release of serotonin in your body, which enhances happiness and reduces pain. For more information on how to find creative ways to exercise and develop a habit that you can maintain, read “How to Trick yourself into Exercise”
Meditation is a way to train your mind to focus on being calm, in the moment, and worry free. It is a way to strengthen resiliency, bring focus, decrease stress, and improve mental health. Mediation is nothing more than detaching yourself completely from your surroundings. And it is a simple as sitting and breathing for 10-20 minutes a day. For more information on the health benefits of meditation and how to get started, read “The Science behind Meditation and Why it is Critical to Self Care.”
Developing a routine can help decrease anxiety by allowing you to make time for the things that are most important to you. the biggest reward is that YOU are in charge of your time, your day, and your energy. But where do you start? Read “Developing a Basic Self Care Routine” with free printable and step-by-step guide to get started.
Step Four: Natural Supplements for Anxiety
There are supplements on the market that help support a sense of calm, focus, and management of normal everyday stresses. These supplements DO NOT take the place of medical evaluation or prescribed medications and DO NOT treat or cure disease. However, when dealing with anxiety, it is important to focus on your health.
I view these supplements as something to support mental health, promote healthy sleep cycles, and maintain a balanced calm feeling. I use them myself and have found that they make me even-tempered, especially when stressful situations arise.
If you choose to use supplements, make sure they are from companies with high testing standards. It is also important to discuss them with your medical provider to see if they will interfere with any prescribed medications. These are 4 products that I highly recommend:
- Charlottes Web CBD Oil: This CBD oil is most effective when ingested every morning and evening. Charlotte’s Web comes from hemp plants, not marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are close relatives, but not the same. By definition, hemp contains no more than .3% THC – the psychoactive compound that is found in higher concentration in marijuana. By contrast, hemp naturally has higher levels of CBD, a non-psychoactive compound known for helping human bodies maintain health and overall wellness.
- DoTerra Copaiba Oil: This essential oil is best used when ingested. If you have regular drug testing at work and are concerned about using CBD oil, then try Copaiba oil instead. Copaiba, similar to Black Pepper, can help soothe anxious feelings and, when taken internally, supports a healthy immune and cardiovascular system. Copaiba essential oil is derived from the resin of the copaiba tree which can grow upwards of more than 100 feet and can be found in tropical South America. When taken internally, Copaiba essential oil supports the health of the cardiovascular, immune, digestive, nervous, and respiratory systems. It is also a powerful antioxidant that promotes immune health.
- Lavender and Rose Essential Oil Diffused: Considered the most common essential oil, lavender oil benefits include having a calming, relaxing effect. It’s considered a nervous system restorative and helps with inner peace, sleep, restlessness, irritability, panic attacks, nervous stomach and general nervous tension. One of the benefits of rose essential oil is that it is very soothing . Rose essential oil helps relieve anxiety and depression, and also helps diminish panic attacks, grieving and shock. I recommend this diffuser because it is small, efficient, and inexpensive. Just diffusing these scents can help promote a sense of calmness.
- Camomile Tea: Chamomile tea is widely thought to help people relax and fall asleep. Camomile has been shown to promote tranquility, vitality, and naturally fight against anxiety and depression.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Step Five: When to seek Professional Help
If you have an acute “anxiety attack,” don’t wait to seek medical treatment! There are many symptoms that could also be due to a heart attack, dangerous thyroid dysfunction, heart arrhythmia, electrolyte abnormalities…all which require emergent care! Concerning symptoms include:
- Chest pain or tightness
- Racing heart rate
- Difficulty breathing or choking sensation
- Overwhelming panic or feelings of doom
- Feeling like you are “going crazy”
- Severe insomnia
- Shaking, chills, nausea, vomiting
- Feelings of harming yourself or others
Primary Care Provider
Make an appointment with your primary care provider if you don’t have acute symptoms, such as listed above, but are concerned with the way anxiety is affecting your life. There are great treatment options, therapists, and habit modifications available (some of which we have already discussed) so don’t suffer!
Benefits of Managing Anxiety
There are so many benefits to managing and living with your anxiety! Anxiety doesn’t have to hold you back from living your best life possible. Enjoy:
- Improved Health
- Improved Focus and Concentration
- Better Work-Life Balance
- Improved Relationships
- Improved Happiness
Managing anxiety and stress DOES take time and intention. The best approach is to attack it from many different angles, as we discussed above. When you identify that you have frequent anxiety, deal with the triggers, focus on self care, use supplements, and seek medical opinion when indicated, you can start living your best life! Many of my clients have been able to lose weight, improve overall health, achieve better focus and concentration, and enjoy relationships! It takes time but you can do it!
You’ve Got This!
“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.”Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
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