Ten ways to reduce your anxiety
1. Take time out
It's always difficult to think clearly when you're overcome with anxiety, stress or fear. A racing heart, sweating palms and confusion, are the result of adrenaline. So, the most important to do when you feel any of these symptoms is to take deep breaths, and have some time out so you can physically calm down.
Find ways to distract yourself, walk around the block, make yourself a drink, listen to music, or have a bath. When you've physically calmed down, you'll feel in a better place to decide on the best way to cope.
2. What's the worst that can happen?
When you're anxious about something – be it work, a relationship or an exam – it can be helpful to think about what the worst case scenario could be . Even if a presentation, a call or a conversation goes horribly wrong, chances are that you and the world will survive. Sometimes the worst that can happen is a panic attack.
If you start to feel an increasing heartbeat or sweating palms, the best thing is not to fight it. Stay where you are and simply feel the panic without trying to distract yourself. Placing the palm of your hand on your stomach and breathing slowly and deeply (no more than 12 breaths a minute) helps soothe the body.
It may take up to an hour, but eventually the panic will go away on its own. The goal is to help the mind get used to coping with panic, which in turn takes the fear of fear away.
3. Expose yourself to the fear
Avoiding your fears only makes them scarier. If you panic one day getting into a lift, it's best to get back into a lift the next day. Stand in the lift and feel the fear until it goes away. Whatever your fear, if you face it, it should start to fade.
4. Welcome the worst
When we are able to embrace our fears it makes them easier to cope with the next time they strike, The fear and reality are usually a long way apart. In the end they are no longer a problem. Try imagining the worst thing that can happen – perhaps it's panicking and having a heart attack. Then try to think yourself into having a heart attack. It's just not possible. The fear will run away the more you chase it.
5. Get real
These tips are designed for people who are coping with day-to-day fears and anxieties. If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety-related condition, see our page on generalised anxiety disorder.
Fears tend to be much worse than reality. Often, people who have been attacked can't help thinking they're going to be attacked again every time they walk down a dark alley. But the chance that an attack will happen again is actually very low.
Similarly, people sometimes tell themselves they're a failure because they blush when they feel self-conscious. This then makes them more upset. But blushing in stressful situations is normal. By remembering this, the anxiety goes away.
6. Don't expect perfection
Beware of any tendency for Black-and-white, Good or Bad thinking patterns. Perfectionist thinking such as, "If I'm not the best mum in the world, I'm a failure," or, "My DVDs aren't all facing in the same direction, so my life is a mess," are unrealistic and only set us up for anxiety.
Life is full of stresses, yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect. Bad days and setbacks will always happen, and it's essential to remember that life is messy.
Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm – it could be a picture of you walking on a beautiful beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood. Let the positive feelings soothe you until you feel more relaxed.
8. Talk about it
Sharing fears takes away a lot of their scariness.
9. Go back to basics
Plenty of sleep, , a healthy meal and a walk are often the best cures for anxiety. The easiest way to fall asleep when worries are spiralling through the mind can be to stop trying to nod off. Instead, try to stay awake.
Many people turn to alcohol or drugs to self-treat anxiety with the idea that it will make them feel better, but these only make nervousness worse. On the other hand, eating well will make you feel great physically and mentally.
10. Reward yourself
Finally, be kind to yourself, and give yourself a treat. When you've picked up a spider or made that call you've been dreading, recognise your success by treating yourself to a candlelit bath, a massage, a walk, a concert, a meal out, a book, a DVD, or whatever little gift makes you happy.