More people than ever before are living with anxiety these days. The COVID-19 pandemic and all the changes it's caused to daily life, not to mention stress about the virus itself, have increased stress and anxiety, even among those who don't normally have anxiety.
Although it's perfectly normal to be more anxious than usual right now, that doesn't mean you need to let your overall well-being suffer. If your symptoms feel unmanageable, or you are considering self-harm, talk with your doctor about different treatment options. Everyone can benefit, though, from a few simple ideas for managing anxiety.
How to Keep Your Anxiety Under Control
Get Plenty of Sleep
The relationship between sleep and anxiety is a vicious cycle: Anxiety can keep you awake, and not getting enough sleep can make you anxious. And at the same time, getting enough sleep can reduce anxiety. Therefore, to help maintain your well-being, you need to make sleep a priority. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night for the most restorative rest. To help encourage sleep, develop a restful and relaxing routine before bed each night. This might include winding down with some light stretching, reading, meditating, or taking a warm bath. Avoid caffeine, smoking, and alcohol before bed, which will keep you awake. The news can also trigger anxiety before bed, so turn off the TV or log out of social media a few hours before bedtime to help put your mind at ease.
Learn Your Triggers
Everyone has different triggers for their anxiety. One of the best ways to control yours is to identify what causes you to feel anxious, and develop techniques to manage those situations. Whenever you start to feel anxious, journal your feelings, paying close attention to how you feel and what's happening around you. Over time, you'll be able to identify patterns, and develop strategies for managing your triggers. For example, you might notice that you feel more anxious when you skip meals or drink alcohol. Those are easy to avoid and fix. You might also notice more complex triggers; for example, memories of a bad experience can be triggered by sounds, smells, or other events. If you uncover these triggers, you may need to work with your doctor or a mental health professional to develop new strategies for managing your anxiety.
Practice Self Care
Self care is more than just face masks and pedicures. Taking care of yourself includes getting exercise, eating right, and making time for things you enjoy. Your mental health is closely tied to your physical health. Exercising, for example, can increase the production of endorphins, so-called "happy hormones" like serotonin that can help create feelings of well-being. Commit to spending some time every day taking care of yourself, whether that's taking a walk outdoors, engaging in a favorite hobby, or simply relaxing with some deep breaths. Anything you can do that brings enjoyment and reduces your stress can help you maintain control over your anxiety.
Make Contact With Others
In a time when spending time with other people is actively discouraged, it's easy to feel isolated and lonely, which can increase feelings of anxiety. However, humans need contact with others and making contact with friends and family can help you stay in control of your feelings. Try scheduling a video chat with your friends, or stay in touch over email or text. If you feel safe, plan a socially distanced visit with your friends. You can still enjoy time together outdoors while staying six feet apart. Don't be afraid to talk to your loved ones about how you're feeling and ask for support. They may be having similar feelings and welcome the chance to share as well.
Meditating before bed can help you fall asleep, but it can also be an effective strategy throughout the day to help you stay mindful and in the moment. Anxiety is often brought on by worries about what will happen in the future, or negative feelings about things that have happened in the past. Putting too much emphasis on what has been and what will be, though, can create more anxiety and stress. To reduce those feelings, focus on staying in the moment and taking each day as it comes. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be proactive or make plans, but focusing on things that haven't happened yet or that you can't change is not productive. Focus on what you can control now, and try meditating and focusing on the current moment. This can help center and calm you, and improve your overall well-being.