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Anxiety seems to be prevalent in today’s fast paced and increasingly stressful world. If you’ve watched the news lately, increasing concerns over the financial crisis and tensions in the Middle East can’t help but contribute to feelings of anxiety and stress. Here are some tips to help you cope and manage stress and anxiety.
What is Anxiety
Anxiety is the feeling of being pressured, stressed or that something bad is going to happen. If you’re feeling anxious, you might feel your heart race, you might suddenly break out in a sweat or feel like you can’t quite catch your breath. You may feel dizzy or even nauseous. If your anxiety is extreme, you might even feel like you’re having a heart attack. These are all symptoms of anxiety and while they’re definitely uncomfortable, they can be treated with stress managements techniques.
Anxiety is our physical and emotional reaction to stress. Stress can take many forms. Maybe you’re running late for work and know you have a project due that you just can’t afford to be late on. Maybe it’s your kids yelling at each other, while you’re trying to make dinner. Maybe it’s being worried because you’ve just lost your job. All of these things are stressors and they cause anxiety. The common feature of stressors is that they make us feel out of control and helpless.
Anxiety is a normal response to stress and small amounts of stress aren’t necessarily harmful. However, large amounts of stress, especially on an ongoing basis, can be very unhealthy and can contribute to health problems like increased eating leading to weight problems, and more seriously to heart and blood pressure problems.
While medication can be something we easily turn to as an attempt to “fix” our anxiety, there are some techniques you can use to help you manage your stress that don’t require medication or a trip to the doctor.
When you’re feeling stressed, try giving yourself a mental time out. Close your eyes for a moment and try to take a few deep breaths. Count to ten, and then count backwards. Breathe slowly and deeply, completely filling up your lungs and exhaling through your nose. Concentrate on your heartbeat and consciously try and slow it down. If possible, physically remove yourself from the stressful situation for a few minutes and see if this helps. When you feel your anxiety level going down, then you can return to whatever the situation was and reengage.
Stress and anxiety go hand in hand. When we’re feeling stressed, our anxiety kicks in and goes up. This is a normal and very human response to stress. However, allowing ourselves to be overly stressed for extended periods of time isn’t healthy for our bodies or our relationships. When you’re feeling stressed, take a break and breath deeply. If possible, go outside or to another room and take a time out. You’ll feel better and more in control if you do.