Ten Strategies to Cope with Anxiety

Pooja had a troubled childhood. She grew up watching her parents quarrel frequently. The topics would range from lack of trust to ego issues. She would often see her mother plot things against her father. This constant drama impacted her psyche adversely.

While growing up, once she got a minor fracture in her hand, she was scared to communicate it to her mother, fearing the rebuke she would have to deal with. “My mother would chop me like salad”, said Pooja to her friends.

Being surrounded by constant drama, she could barely develop a genuine interest in any topic and mugged up to somehow pass her exams. The degree of her child was a matter of social health for her mother. She never wanted to be looked down upon in her circle of friends. She paid hefty donations to send her child to academic institutions.

All of this pressure led to anxiety issues in Pooja. Pooja could barely make new friends. The few that she had managed to befriend nick-named her a “psycho”.

Pooja kept landing internships and jobs with nepotism coming to her rescue, but could not stick to any single one for long. The idea of exploring herself was never a question because all of her mother’s likeness was thrust upon her.

While at work, she would fixate on the deadline and moan, “I’ll never get this done!”. “I work best on my own”, she could barely operate in a team. In social gatherings, she would feel awkward holding conversations.

Characters like Pooja operate from a stance of fear. They need someone who would babysit and smile at their fragile ego. People with neurotic anxiety often demand perfection but seem to go against the very things they demand. They put themselves in positions of helplessness just to complain - “why is it taking this long?", thinking the world and everyone revolve around them and their infantile needs.

In this article, Dr. Ananya Chitale talks about dealing with anxiety.

1. What is Anxiety?

It’s been a difficult year for many of us, with many unforeseen circumstances we couldn’t have possibly imagined. We all have passed through a huge range of emotions, the most prominent of them being Anxiety and fear. Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. Now everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life, whether it is about preparing for a job interview, meeting a partner’s family for the first time, or the prospect of parenthood.

This anxiety usually manifests as what we call worry, apprehension, and even physical symptoms like butterflies in the stomach, racing heart, trembling, and many more. Anxiety commonly affects us only temporarily until the source of our anxiety has passed or we have learned to cope with it.

All anxiety isn’t bad. It serves the positive function of alerting us to things we might need to worry about: potentially harmful things. More importantly, these emotions help us to evaluate potential threats and properly respond to them, perhaps by quickening our reflexes or focusing our attention.

2. Normal Vs Abnormal – When is Anxiety and Fear a problem?

Fear and anxiety are beneficial and protective, as they have an important role in helping us perform better, stimulate action in real dangers, and can lead to creativity. However, anxiety becomes a problem when it overstays its welcome (duration), and/or is of intensity or frequency which begins to interfere with a person’s functioning and overall well-being.

These three factors- duration, intensity, and frequency- distinguish normal, adaptive anxiety from abnormal, pathological anxiety. As such, abnormal anxiety is different from normal anxiety because it is disproportionate to the situation that elicited the anxious response. When the intensity, duration, and/or frequency of anxiety become distressful and chronic, such that it interferes with a person’s functioning, it is often referred to as pathological anxiety. Anxiety disorders represent variant forms of this pathological anxiety.

Therefore, the difference between normal anxiety and abnormal anxiety is this: anxiety is considered normal and adaptive when it serves to improve functioning or wellbeing. In contrast, abnormal anxiety is a chronic condition that impairs people’s functioning and interferes with their well-being. This impairment causes them significant distress. There are specific symptoms that accompany each anxiety disorder.

3. How to cope with anxiety?

There is a range of strategies you can try to manage your anxiety. What works is different for everyone, and it can take time to find the strategies that work best for you. These methods can’t replace professional help but might offer a sense of calm to you when you need it. So do not shy away from taking professional help.

1. STOP When you feel overwhelmed try practicing this STOP

S= stop, Whatever you’re doing, just pause momentarily.

T= Take a breath. Reconnect with your breath. The breath is an anchor to the present moment.

O= Observe. Notice what is happening. What is happening inside you, and outside of you? Where has your mind gone? What do you feel? What are you doing?

P= Proceed. Continue doing what you were doing. Or don’t: Use the information gained during this check-in to change course. Whatever you do, do it mindfully. Mindfulness techniques like this one help a lot to control your excess anxiety.

2. Healthy lifestyle.

Eating a balanced diet, practicing digital detox regularly, sleeping well on time, and establishing a work-life balance helps in keeping anxiety at bay.

3. Facing your fears

Try approaching your anxiety triggers– even in a small way. The way through anxiety is by learning that what you fear isn’t likely to happen – and if it does, you’ll be able to cope with it.

4. Challenge your self-talk.

How you think affects how you feel. Anxiety can make you overestimate the danger in a situation and underestimate your ability to handle it. Try to think of different interpretations of a situation that’s making you anxious, rather than jumping to the worst-case scenario. Look at the facts for and against your thought being true.

5. Plan worry time.

It’s hard to stop worrying entirely so set aside some time to indulge your worries. Even 10 minutes each evening to write them down or go over them in your head can help stop your worries from taking over at other times.

6. Get to know your anxiety.

Keep a diary of when it’s at its best – and worst. Find the patterns and plan your week – or day – to proactively manage your anxiety.

7. Learn from others.

Talking with others who also experience anxiety – or are going through something similar – can help you feel less alone.

8. Be kind to yourself.

Remember that you are not your anxiety. You are not weak. You are not inferior. You have a mental health condition. It’s called anxiety.

9. Distract yourself

Sometimes we just need to be around people who love us or spend time on hobbies that distract us from feelings of negativity.

10. Using self-care strategies.

Some of our favorites include running a bath, lighting candles, listening to calming music, and meditating.

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