Learning how to manage anxiety

Jonathan Swinton

Do you wonder how to cope with your own feelings of anxiety? You are not alone. Anxiety is increasing in prevalence across the country. It is estimated that more than 40 million Americans are struggling with it at any given time. 

So how can you learn to manage it? There are several life changes you can make that can have a measurable difference on your anxiety.

• Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep is linked to so many health and mental health issues, including anxiety. Most people don’t get enough sleep. If you are an adult under the age of 65 you need a minimum of 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep each night. This means that if you are getting less than 7.5 hours of sleep, you are not getting enough. It also means that you may need more than that. 

• Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine can cause and exacerbate anxiety and panic symptoms. Too many who are anxious or stressed turn to caffeine for more energy to get the things they are anxious or stressed about done. However, doing this will only make the anxiety and stress symptoms worse. Find other non-caffeinated drinks you like that you can replace the caffeinated beverages with. Replacement will be easier than elimination.

• Get regular exercise. Exercise is very effective at reducing anxiety symptoms. You don’t need to become a marathon runner or a cross-fit champion. Rather, just find a way to get your heart rate up for 15 or more minutes a day. A brisk walk will do this. Check with your physician before beginning an exercise program.

• Relaxation activities. Relaxation activities can help. Common suggestions are deep breathing, yoga, meditation, prayer or listening to calming music. Find whatever works for you and do it for a set time every day. Doing so before feeling anxious can prevent the anxiety from occurring. Doing it when the anxiety is present can also help reduce it.

• Reduce your commitments. Most of us overprogram our lives. We have so many things we try to do for good reasons. However, just because things are good doesn’t mean they are good for your anxiety. Find a way to reduce your commitments so that you can keep up with your commitments. This will help you feel more in control and will help reduce anxiety. 

• Seek counseling. Counseling from a licensed professional can give you personalized strategies from an expert.

These changes may be difficult and may require some life changes. However, if you really want to reduce your anxiety, give them a try. It will be worth it to feel that your life is more in your control and less driven by anxiety.

Dr. Swinton is a relationship and mental health expert with Utah State University Extension in Sevier County. If you have questions you would like him to confidentially address in this column, email him at jonathan.swinton@usu.edu.

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