Healthcare professionals often describe anxiety as an impending sense of doom that is not necessarily linked to an actual event. Unlike the feeling of nervousness we sometimes experience when confronted by challenging situations, anxiety can actually cripple an individual’s ability to act at all. Sometimes, anxiety can lead to a panic attack that triggers heightened negative emotions and fear that can paralyse the ability to think, act and perform normally. Chronic anxiety is often associated with unresolved trauma, which itself can precipitate substance use disorders. So what triggers anxiety, and more importantly, how do you cope with it before it spins out of control?
Anxiety is a fear-driven response triggered by a stressor. Such stressors can be environmental, financial, family related, or involve death, illness, a traumatic event such as abuse, exposure to violence and more. Prolonged and chronic anxiety can have serious psychological and physical consequences and should be addressed by a trained mental health professional, who can help alleviate the painful, frightening and overwhelming emotions characteristic of people who have chronic anxiety.
What you can do to minimise anxiety
The following five strategies will help you deal with anxiety, and if you follow them diligently, it could have uplifting, life-altering benefits. However, do remember that each one of these tips will require practice and patience. The key is to be gentle with yourself throughout the process.
Create awareness by observing your feelings
Learn to recognise and identify your feelings by observing them without judgement. With daily practice (you can even set aside specific times to do this), you will become increasingly self-aware and be able to recognise when anxiety sets in. Recognising and acknowledging anxiety when it surfaces is a crucial initial step in combatting the problem.
Medical trials and clinical studies have comprehensively proved that exercise is an effective antidepressant. Any form of physical activity boosts endorphins and regulates mood. Choose an activity you enjoy and don’t push yourself initially. Thirty minutes of walking or gentle jogging is enough to make a difference.
Accept that you won’t always be able to control every situation
Wanting to constantly be in control can trigger anxiety. The first step in alleviating the anxiety that comes with the need to control is to let go of situations that are not in your power. When you are aware that anxiety is creeping in (through the exercise mentioned in the first step above), allow yourself to release it, and relinquish the need to control anything that may be in your mind.
While certain social situations can trigger anxiety, the same can be said for isolation. To break the cycle, strive to find a balance between isolating and socialising. Start a new hobby, engage in social activities or join a sports or recreational club to get out and about. You can always join the mountain bike boom or a hiking club, where you will meet others and enjoy the aesthetic rewards of exercise in the outdoors.
Give yourself enough time
Always give yourself just a little extra time to complete a task. Try not to rush from one task or activity to another, and if you feel someone is pushing you beyond the brink of your capabilities, tell them so. Allow some time to savour just being actively engaged.
Comorbidity: Anxiety’s unwanted partner
Many individuals who suffer from anxiety often have comorbid conditions or exhibit behavioural patterns that sometimes are not only unpleasant, but can also be destructive. Treating only the destructive behaviour and habits associated with chronic anxiety or over-controlling behaviour does not always result in long-term recovery. It is important to speak to a trained professional who understands how to treat depression and anxiety.
Many individuals who suffer from an addiction will relapse; thus, a continuum of aftercare is vital to ensure holistic treatment and recovery. At Recovery Direct, our trained staff and trauma counsellors are there to make sure help is always on hand. We offer ongoing support through our outpatient and aftercare programme.