Dan Lippmann LCSW. Practical, Sustainable Happiness

Top 10 Ways to Overcome Anxiety

When you’re dealing with anxiety, it may feel as though your options are limited.

However, research has proven that each of the following 10 practices can help to overcome anxiety. They are varied enough that there is bound to be something here for everyone.

Start with one or two that seem like they will be easy to do. Once these are part of your daily routine, you can try others that appeal to you.

It’s fine to experiment. You may discover that a particular practice helps you overcome anxiety all on its own. Or you may discover that combining several practices leads to feeling better. Any of these practices can be safely used in conjunction with other anxiety treatments.

1. Limit your exposure to TV news. When was the last time you felt calmer and more relaxed after watching the news? Enough said! If you must watch the news, watch it only once a day — and never before bed.

2. Practice belly breathing. When you’re relaxed, your breathing is fuller and deeper and comes from the abdomen. If you consciously breathe this way, it can put your body and mind into a state of relaxation.

3. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness involves being fully aware of whatever is happening in the present moment, without any type of judgment.

In his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Bob Stahl, PhD, suggests: “Pick a task you normally do on a daily basis, like brushing your teeth, and try to keep your attention on the task as you do it, bringing all of your sense to the experience.”

Studies have demonstrated that mindfulness leads to increased well-being, focus, and peace — the direct opposite of anxiety.

4. Meditate. Research points to mindfulness meditation (a more formalized version of the mindfulness practice described above) as being extremely effective for reducing stress and anxiety.

This form of meditation develops your ability to focus your attention on the present moment without judging the content or processes of your mind. It is easy to learn and requires nothing more than sitting quietly while focusing on the breath.

5. Practice optimistic thinking. According to recent research, positive thinking translates into a happier, healthier, and even a longer life! Even if you’re a born pessimist, always expecting bad things to happen to you, it’s still entirely possible to raise your optimism level.

Dr. Martin Seligman’s free Optimism Test can provide a snapshot of where you fall on the optimism scale. Then, you can choose from many helpful strategies to change beliefs that don’t serve you.

6. Engage in regular physical activity. Research shows that physical activity helps you feel more in control, increases self-worth, and provides a positive distraction from worries and rumination. Even a short walk can serve as a time-out from stress and anxiety, and boost your ability to respond more effectively to situations.

7. Eat protein every three hours. Kristin Allott, ND, a Seattle-based physician, explains that low blood sugar can mimic the symptoms of anxiety.

To prevent blood glucose-related anxiety, she recommends eating protein every three hours to stabilize blood sugar and avoid that shaky feeling. Relief from certain types of anxiety may be as close as your next meal.

8. Get about eight hours of sleep a night. It’s easier to deal with life’s challenges when you’re rested – plain and simple! If anxiety keeps you awake at night, mindfulness meditation (above) and cognitive based therapy techniques, including my Mood Switch Method, can help calm your mind so you can sleep.

9. Listen to relaxation and guided imagery tapes. Guided imagery is a gentle but powerful technique that focuses and directs the imagination. Research has demonstrated its positive impact on physical and emotional health, creativity and performance.

Belleruth Naparstek produces excellent guided imagery tapes, including Guided Meditations for Help with Panic Attacks.

10. Write down three good things that happen every day. Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, asked clients suffering from major depression to write down three good things that happened every day. Within 15 days, 94% experienced relief from debilitating depression.

This simple exercise can be implemented right away to counteract both depression and anxiety. In addition, it cultivates a sense of gratitude. You’ll find that it’s hard to feel anxious and grateful at the same time.

I recommend these strategies every day to my clients who suffer from anxiety (and I do most of them myself, as well!). Almost every client reports that they feel better — as long as they do at least one of the strategies on a regular basis.

Although the strategies take varying degrees of effort, commitment, and discipline, they are all very doable. Best of all, they bolster your ability to handle life’s challenges with greater calm and confidence.

As you try these strategies, please leave a comment below to say which ones have helped you to overcome anxiety.

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