Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment. These statistics from Anxiety and Depression Association of America are alarming. It is probably safe to say that everyone will experience some form of anxiety in their life if they have not already. I come from a family with a history of anxiety and panic attacks. Before I was diagnosed with Graves’s disease and misdiagnosed for four-year my disease escalated to the point of causing me severe anxiety. During those four years, I learned some very helpful secrets. I call them secrets because, unfortunately, many people don’t talk about their anxiety and keep it a secret as though it is something to be ashamed of and it isn’t, keeping it a secret only makes it worse. If you are experiencing anxiety from everyday stresses and particular life circumstances try these four techniques to calm your anxiety.
- BREATHE, by focusing on your breathing you can calm your anxiety within seconds. A helpful breathing technique I used to not only calmed my anxiety but, to calm my labor pains during pregnancy. Six months into my second pregnancy, I experienced early labor. My doctor threatened to put me in the hospital and on medications if it didn’t stop. Anyone who knows me well knows I am not fond of any medications especially, if it would affect my child, so I self- meditated instead, through a breathing technique that worked. Every time I went into labor I sat quietly wherever I was and focused on my breathing until all labor subsided. It got me through 2 ½ months bringing the pregnancy to a safer delivery time. Here is the technique I used:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound while pushing your stomach in.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four while pushing your stomach out.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight while pushing your stomach in.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle until you feel calm and ready to move.
- Avoid stimulants and irritants like caffeine and stressful T.V. shows: Believe it or not watching or listening to stressful content can trigger anxiety. It doesn’t have to be your own stress to feel stress, and caffeine can increase your heart rate triggering more anxiety. Slice a lemon, squeeze it into a mug then drop it to the bottom and pour boiling water in to make hot lemon water. It will soothe and comfort you while giving you added doses of vitamin C. Then unplug from technology and relax. Listen to nature as it sings you a soothing melody.
- Be fully present in the now: There is no greater gift you can give yourself or the person you are with than to give your full conscious attention. Too often, we give ourselves anxiety by thinking about the past. Replaying things a different way as though we have the power to change past regrets and we don’t. Our only power is in the present moment. Your past is like your ass; it is behind you so stop straining your head to look back at it “let it go” focus on what is before you. Drop the baggage weighing you down worrying about the past and the future. It is a waste of energy and time is so short. Learn the art to “just be” and by “being” you naturally melt the stress.
- Take Inventory of your problems: Write down each problem you feel you have pressing in on you; number each one by how it will effect you 1 year from now, 6 months from now and 1 month from now. Will it be relevant to you then? Most problems we perceive are not relevant down the road they are just our disappointments from our high expectations of how we think something or someone should be or should’ve been. Real problems get dealt with by their matter of importance one moment at a time. Not all at once, but step by step. So don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by things that don’t really need your attention and focus solely on the ones that need your attention. Writing them down helps you to sort them out and see them more clearly.
Lastly, and this is not a secret, but a reminder to go out with your friends and have fun. Laughter is the best medicine and sharing your life with a friend is the best therapy. Life is too short to be wasting it worrying about things we have no control over. There are plenty of things that we do have control over and that is where our power lies, our power is in the present moment. Grasp it, live it, love it and you will find calm peace and eternal joy.