Sevenoaks Therapy

counselling & pSYchotherapy in Sevenoaks & Belvedere

How to Manage Anxiety: Tips and Tricks for a More Peaceful Mind

Anxiety is triggered by our brain’s response to perceived danger.  This response is known as the fight, flight, or freeze response. It is a natural response that helps us to survive in dangerous situations.

When we perceive a threat, our brain sends signals to our body to prepare for action. This results in a number of physical changes, such as increased heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Our muscles also tense up, and our senses become more alert.

The fight, flight, or freeze response is triggered by a part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped structure that is responsible for processing emotions, especially fear and aggression.

When the amygdala detects a threat, it sends signals to other parts of the brain, such as the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland are responsible for releasing hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones prepare the body for action.

The fight, flight, or freeze response is usually a helpful response. It helps us to quickly react to danger and to protect ourselves. However, in some cases, the fight, flight, or freeze response can be triggered even when there is no real danger. This can lead to anxiety.

People with anxiety disorders have a heightened sensitivity to threats. Their amygdala is more likely to perceive threats, even when there are none. This can lead to frequent and intense anxiety attacks.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to anxiety disorders, including genetics, brain chemistry, and life experiences.

There are a number of treatments available for anxiety disorders, including therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Therapy can help people to understand their anxiety and to develop coping mechanisms. Medication can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly, can also help to reduce anxiety.

It is common for our anxiety to be triggered by some of the following events:

  • Stressful life events. This can include things like a new job, a death in the family, or a divorce.
  • Financial problems. Worrying about money can be a major trigger for anxiety.
  • Health problems. Being sick or having a chronic illness or caring for someone who is unwell can also lead to anxiety.
  • Social situations. People with social anxiety may feel anxious in social situations, such as parties or meetings.
  • Public speaking. Many people feel anxious about speaking in public.
  • Exams and tests. Test anxiety can be a problem for students of all ages.
  • Caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol can both worsen anxiety symptoms.
  • Lack of sleep. When you are tired, you are more likely to feel anxious. (Read my blog “The Sleep Solution”).

So, how can we calm our anxiety?

  • Identify your triggers. What are the things that typically make you feel anxious? Once you know what your triggers are, you can start to develop strategies for coping with them.
  • Challenge your negative thoughts. When you are feeling anxious, it is common to have negative thoughts. These negative thoughts lead to negative feelings which often lead to negative actions. Consider this situation:
    • You see someone you know and they don’t acknowledge you.
      • Thought: I wonder why they didn’t say ‘hello’. Maybe they are annoyed with me, I must have done something wrong.
      • Feeling:  Hurt, rejection,
      • Action: Avoid the person or ignore them when I next see them

The action (avoiding/ignoring the person) leads to further negative thoughts and increased anxiety.

    • Consider the same situation with a neutral thought:
      • Thought: Maybe they didn’t notice me.  I wonder if they have something on their mind?
      • Feeling: Neutral or curious
      • Action: Smile the next time I see them and check in on them to make sure they are OK

It is important to challenge these negative thoughts and ask yourself if they are realistic. Challenging the negative thought and replacing it with a realistic one, changes how we feel and that changes how we act.

  • Practice relaxation techniques. There are a number of relaxation techniques that can help to reduce anxiety, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week, if you can. If that seems too difficult, start with smaller goals; a 5-minute walk in the fresh air, and build up.
  • Get enough sleep. When you are well-rested, you are better able to cope with stress and anxiety. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol can worsen anxiety symptoms. If you are struggling to manage anxiety, it is best to avoid these substances.

If you have tried these self-help tips and you are still struggling to manage anxiety, it is important to seek professional help. A therapist can teach you additional coping skills and help you to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

Here are some additional tips and tricks that you can use to reduce anxiety and promote a more peaceful mind:

  • Spend time in nature. Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Go for a walk in the park, hike in the woods, or simply sit outside and enjoy the fresh air.
  • Listen to calming music. Listening to calming music can help to relax your mind and body. Try listening to classical music, nature sounds, or any other type of music that you find relaxing.
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. There are a number of different mindfulness exercises that you can do, such as meditation and yoga.
  • Spend time with loved ones or friends. Spending time with loved ones can help to reduce stress and anxiety. Make time for the people who are important to you, and let them know how you are feeling.
  • Take care of yourself. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Taking care of your physical health can also improve your mental health.

If you are struggling to manage anxiety, remember that you are not alone. Many of us struggle with various levels of anxiety.  There are a number of things you can do which will help, and there are people who care about you and want to help.

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