That's why we've rounded up a handful of the most effective coping strategies for an anxiety disorder. If you're ever feeling overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, give one of these strategies a try for quick relief.
Short-Term Coping Strategies for Anxiety
There are many different types of anxiety disorders out there. These include:
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- And more
The best way to treat anxiety in the long term is through psychotherapy, whether that be short-term and behaviorally based, or in longer-term therapies that can help you explore the origins of your discomfort. But if you need fast relief for your anxiety, try a few of these short-term coping strategies.
1. Deep Breathing Exercises
When done correctly, deep breathing exercises can be a sure-fire way to reduce stress and anxiety. This is because controlled breathing can help reduce your heart rate. Slowing it all down helps calm anxiety and may alleviate other related symptoms of anxiety, as well.
For example, here's one simple controlled breathing technique to try: Breath in for four counts and then breath out for eight counts. Repeat this cycle for 5 minutes and you'll be surprised at how much more at ease you feel by doubling the time on the air's way out.
Another related option to try is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. With this pattern, you'll inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds, then repeat.
These strategies force the mind and body to focus on regulating the breath, so you don't hyper-fixate on anxious thoughts. They also help to down-regulate your heightened physiological arousal by adjusting the oxygen and CO2 levels in your bloodstream.
2. Get Creative
Never underestimate the power of your own imagination! Creative activities have been shown to help focus the mind and induce calming effects on the brain and body (Forbes). Even simple crafts like drawing or sewing can release dopamine, which functions as a natural anti-depressant.
Whenever you're feeling anxious, throw yourself into your favorite creative activity. Whether you like to cook, write, or paint, do what you can to get your creative side flowing.
3. Write Down Your Thoughts
It's estimated that the average person has more than 6,000 thoughts in a single day. And if you have an anxiety disorder, many of those daily thoughts will likely be anxious ones.
Putting your thoughts to paper in a personal journal can help you process your emotions in a healthy way. That creative outlet will give you a chance to express your thoughts in a safe space and reflect on your personal growth.
4. Utilize Your Support System
Anxiety is difficult to deal with on your own. But there's no reason you must grapple with your emotions solo.
You have a social support system in place in your daily life, so use it! Reach out to a friend or family member to talk through your feelings. They care about you, so they'll be your shoulder to lean on when you're feeling anxious. Co-workers, colleagues, and mentors can also be good support systems for your anxious feelings.
And as you talk through your emotions, your supportive person will offer positive reinforcement without passing judgment. It's a great way to overcome your anxious thoughts.
Long-Term Coping Strategies for Anxiety
Quick coping methods should not be your sole source of treatment for anxiety. It's important to also integrate long-term strategies to lessen the severity of your symptoms and prevent them.
5. Identify Your Triggers and Manage Them
Your anxious thoughts can likely be traced back to a few common triggers. Some triggers are fairly obvious, like nicotine, caffeine, or travel. Other triggers can be trickier to identify and treat (e.g., genetics, phobias, financial situations, etc.).
You might need support from a therapist to identify your triggers. But when you can determine your triggers, take steps to limit your exposure to them. For instance, if you're anxious in crowded areas, avoid them whenever possible. It's a fine balance between becoming increasingly avoidant and dodging triggers in your everyday environment.
You can also take steps to deal with your anxiety triggers in healthy ways. By confronting the activating situation head-on, you may gradually overcome your anxious thoughts and gain confidence in your abilities. For instance, if you join a public speaking group, you may slowly be able to overcome your fears of crowded areas.
6. Prioritize Your Mental and Physical Health
When your mind and body are fit and sound, you'll be able to stave off anxiety symptoms. Keep your brain and body in tip-top shape year-round by:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating well-balanced meals of whole foods and vegetables
- Getting enough sleep each night
- Staying connected with friends and family
- Practicing self-care routines
7. Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Among the many available widely-used therapeutic techniques for anxiety disorders that therapists are trained in is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This type of therapy works to help patients learn how to identify and change counter-productive patterns of thinking that have a negative influence on their behaviors and emotions.
During your CBT sessions, an anxiety therapist in Chicago will guide you through a range of therapeutic approaches and techniques. Throughout this process, your destructive thoughts will be identified, challenged, and replaced with more objective, realistic, and positive thoughts.
Over time your thought patterns will change for the better and your anxiety disorder symptoms will lessen.
Book Your First Session with Our Anxiety Therapist in Chicago
If you're struggling with an anxiety disorder, our mental health professionals can help you find the relief you need.
At Wellington Counseling Group, we have multiple mental health providers on staff with extensive experience in anxiety disorders. Our licensed counselors will develop an individualized treatment plan to help address your anxiety and improve your quality of life.
Contact Wellington Counseling Group today to book your first session with our anxiety therapist in Chicago.