4 Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Anxiety Sufferers
Living with anxiety can make even the most basic tasks nearly impossible. Things most people don’t think twice about can cause your stomach to knot up, and your muscles to freeze. Learning to cope with the symptoms of anxiety is the only way to live a healthy, well-rounded life.
Simply avoiding all anxiety-inducing things is not only impossible, but it is also an unhealthy practice. An alternative practice commonly used to handle anxiety is self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. As many as 35% of people with anxiety self-medicate as a way to cope with daily anxieties. This, too, is very detrimental, leading to an increased risk of suicide. Instead, here are a few healthy ways you can cope with everyday anxiety:
Breathing and Walking Meditation
Meditation is an ideal way to quiet and calm the mind. It allows the mind to clear the racing thoughts that are so common in anxious people. Regularly practicing a form of meditation can reduce your anxiety levels, causing you to have a lowered anxious response to things that may normally send you into a panic. Meditation is also perfect for on-the-go self-soothing. A short breathing exercise can be done before a class, while waiting in the car, or even at your desk at work.
Walking meditation is slightly different. While most seated meditation focuses on breathing, walking meditation typically utilizes chanting to induce a sort of trance, emptying the mind. There are a number of chants that can be used, each with a different purpose. Walking meditation can be done anywhere that you can walk slowly without worrying about running into anyone or anything.
Exercising has been shown to rapidly lower anxiety and depression in people suffering from mental illness. Even a short walk can noticeably improve mood and reduce anxiety levels. However, some of the best forms of exercise for anxiety incorporate meditative thought. Yoga and Tai Chi are the most popular options; both include meditative practices such as mindfulness and a focus on breathing.
Adopt a Four-legged Friend
If you don’t have a furry companion, studies show that you may be missing out on their healing powers—they can actually reduce anxiety and boost mood. But if the thought of taking on the responsibility of “pet owner” feels overwhelming to you, don’t worry. You can get the same benefits by being around other people’s pets. Become a dog walker or pet sitter so that you can get the mental health benefits of being around animals without the stress of providing 24/7 care. And even better, you can boost your income in the process.
Spending Time Relaxing
Taking time to unwind with your favorite book or a hobby you enjoy is critical for people with anxiety. The mental break as you focus on something enjoyable is needed in order to avoid the anxious feelings piling up and causing a bigger problem. If you get anxious frequently, bring a portable hobby with you such as a crochet project, journal, book, or even an MP3 player. Use this task to distract yourself from what is causing you anxiety, or use it as a way to recover from an anxiety-inducing event. It is far better to get into the habit of reaching for a craft than to reach for an addictive substance.
Coping with a disorder like anxiety can make life very difficult. Even more difficult is avoiding addiction. With mental disorders, finding something that makes you feel better can seem like a miracle whether it’s alcohol, marijuana or hard drugs.
Even if you know the detrimental effects, the promise of feeling better for just a few hours can easily trump the knowledge that you are engaging in dangerous and potentially addictive activities. Instead of turning to substances, try making a few lifestyle changes. Exercise more, start meditating, and immerse yourself in some healthy, engaging hobbies. The outcome is far preferable to rehabilitation.