Tips for Living With Anxiety

If you deal with anxiety on a regular basis, medication doesn't have to be your only treatment.

To calm your mind and cut stress, try working these self-care tips into your daily routine:

Move your body. Exercise is an important part of physical -- and mental -- health. It can ease your feelings of anxiety and boost your sense of well-being. Shoot for three to five 30-minute workout sessions a week. Be sure to choose exercises you enjoy so you look forward to them.

Pay attention to sleep. Both quality and quantity are important for good sleep. Doctors recommend 8 hours of shut-eye a night. If anxiety is making it hard for you to fall asleep, create a routine to help you catch your ZZZs:

  • Leave screens behind before you hit the hay.
  • Try to stick to a schedule.
  • Be sure your bed is comfy.
  • Keep your room's temperature on the cool side.

Ease up on caffeine and alcohol. Both caffeine, which is an “upper,” and alcohol, which is a “downer,” can make anxiety kick into overdrive. Cut back or avoid them if you can. Remember, coffee and soda aren't the only things with caffeine. It can also pop up in:

Schedule your worry time. It may sound backward to plan to worry, but doctors actually recommend that you pick a time to think about your fears on purpose. Take 30 minutes to identify what’s bothering you and what you can do about it. Have your “worry session” at the same time every day. Don’t dwell on “what-ifs.” Focus on what actually makes you anxious.

Breathe deep. It sends a message to your brain that you’re OK. That helps your mind and body relax. To get the most out of it, lie down on a flat surface and put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Take a slow breath in. Make sure it fills your belly enough that you can feel it rise slightly. Hold it for a second, then slowly let it out.

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Be the boss of your thoughts. Try to turn any negative thoughts into positive ones. Picture yourself facing your fears head-on. The more you do this in your mind, the easier it will be to deal with it when it happens.

Tame tense muscles. Relax them with this simple exercise: Choose a muscle group, tighten it for a few seconds, then let go. Focus on one section at a time and work through your whole body.

Help out in your community. Spend time doing good things for others. It can help you get out of your head. Volunteer or do other work in your community. Not only will it feel good to give back, you’ll make connections that can be a support system for you, too.

Look for triggers. Think of times and places where you notice yourself feeling most anxious. Write them down, if you need to. Look for patterns and work on ways you can either avoid or confront the feelings of panic and worry. If you know the causes of your anxiety, that can help you put your worries into perspective. Next time, you'll be better prepared when it affects you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on June 12, 2017
© 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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