From early on, anxiety has always been with us in one form or another: starting a new school, a new job, a new chapter in life. These days, however, there’s definitely an uptick; so much more seems out of our control. In the last two years, the Centers for Disease Control has noted a dramatic rise in anxiety and depression among the population, including a 14% increase in alcohol consumption (as a way to self-medicate).
To manage our anxiety, we’ve developed certain coping mechanisms, little routines like checking the weather, traffic, or the 24/7 news — just so we feel that we’re on top of our life. However, it can only go so far. Here are a few practical ideas to better manage the low “thrum” of anxiety that may be negatively affecting your life.
Control What You Can
In the wise words of mathematician John Allen Paulos, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is.” No matter how much we think, plan, or prepare, there’s always room for the proverbial spoke in your wheel. When difficulties seem to blindside you, don’t resist the current reality of what you’re facing. Resistance leads to a “fight or flight” mode which doesn’t allow space to grow, think, learn, or feel better in the situation. As counterintuitive as it may seem, acceptance, as opposed to resisting, allows one to assess the current circumstance, and begin to move forward instead of remaining paralyzed in fear.
Avoid Negative Sources
Probably the worst thing to do when facing uncertainty is to bombard your mind with bleak news. It’s for this reason that some people don’t even keep a television in their homes. According to a 2019 report by The Guardian, young people in the UK have almost completely abandoned TV news broadcasts. Avoiding compulsive check-ins limits the tendency for imagining worst-case scenarios and unfavorable outcomes.
Self-care is the act of investing in the welfare of your mind, body, or spirit. This can involve learning a new skill, a commitment to eating well, setting healthy boundaries for yourself, and being mindful of what you allow to affect your emotions. In times of stress, meditation or routine exercise can help refocus your thoughts and bring a sense of clarity and peace.
Create A Comfort Zone
Stress or insecurity automatically triggers our brain to seek out some form of comfort, which then releases “feel good” dopamine in our brain. However, there are healthy and unhealthy ways of doing so. Pleasure-seeking habits like drug abuse, alcoholism, binge-eating, and uncontrolled sexual promiscuity are all examples of unhealthy ways of seeking comfort.
There are better ways. Taking a swim at the beach or a hike with a friend are healthier options. Have a nice laugh with a loved one, read an interesting novel or stream a funny movie to find your Happy Place. While they may appear minor, these are much healthier ways to find comfort in the midst of a storm.
One other way to throttle down anxiety is to reflect on past successes. If there were times when you faced difficulty but overcame it, this can be a reminder that it’s possible to do so again. No matter what the future may hold, keeping a level head and a positive outlook is a way to not be consumed by fear and worry.