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10 tips to manage anxiety

Today I want to share 10 tips that have been really useful for me to calm my anxiety in everyday life. Because if you’re anything like me you have been there many times.

You’re sitting in a waiting room. Or just waiting somewhere. Soon it will begin. Your leg is starting to shake nervously. Your hands are starting to sweat and maybe your mouth feels a bit dry. Your thoughts are becoming jumbled, it is hard to focus and to think as clearly as you usually do.

Maybe you have an important presentation in school. A job interview. An appointment with your doctor or dentist. A date that you are looking forward to but at the same time you are scared to make a fool of yourself on.

These self-help tips are for relieving low or medium levels of anxiety.

1. Breathe. Take a few minutes to sit down in a quiet place, if possible. Breathe a little deeper than usual and do it with your belly and not with your chest. For just a minute or two focus on only the air going in and out of your nostrils. Nothing else. This will bring your attention back to the present moment instead of it being lost in overthinking scary, future scenarios or bad memories from the past.

2. Get good knowledge. Dispel the clouds of uncertainty and vague fears by researching what you have anxiety about. By talking to people who have done what you are about to do or want to do – or by reading what they have written – you can build a more realistic roadmap with both positives and negatives of how things are likely to go. And learn how to improve in the area that gives you anxiety. Do research on the best ways to become better at and less nervous when – for instance – doing public speaking, job interviews or presentations at work or in school.

3. Do a quick workout. I like to lift weights or do some yoga for about 30 minutes when I feel worried, stressed or anxious. It makes me feel stronger both in mind and body. It releases inner tensions and relaxes me. Others go out for a quick run, walk or bike ride when they feel anxious. Find a way to exercise that fits you and lets you reap these benefits and counteract anxiety.

4. Focus on something else. Sometimes it is more helpful to simply redirect your mind instead of thinking about what creates your current anxiety. Especially if you have no control over the situation that causes the anxiety like for example an upcoming appointment with your doctor or the dentist. So focus your attention somewhere else for a while and recharge it with something positive. Watch a couple of episodes of your favorite sit-com or TV-series. Browse your favorite social media feeds. Have a relaxing or upbeat evening with friends. Do something that takes your mind off the situation that causes anxiety, even if it is just for a few hours. After that recharge you will not only likely feel better but you will also be in a better headspace and at a higher energy level to handle and think about the anxious situation.

5. Don’t forget to eat. When I forget to eat because I am stressed and anxious then that only tends to worsen my state of mind. It becomes harder to think clearly and negative scenarios more easily pop up in my mind. So even if you don't feel that hungry keep an eye on the clock and if you may be running low on fuel.

6. Change your focus to what you can do right now. When you ask yourself questions that make you feel powerless or like things will only get worse and worse then you take away your personal power. Empower yourself by instead asking yourself: What is one small thing I can do to improve upon this situation today? Write that question down and brainstorm answers for a few minutes. Then take action on one of the answers you find. It doesn’t have to be a big action, just one small step forward. And when you are done with it then take another one. This movement forward will make you feel like you are starting to regain control over your life again, it will make you feel more confident and it, in my experience, tends to reduce the anxiety.

7. Question your worries and anxiety. Look to your own past and ask yourself: How many situations that I have been anxious about in the past have turned out to be exaggerations or me making a mountain out of a molehill in my mind? Question your anxiety and worries instead of letting them roam freely.

8. Remember: You have handled tough situations in the past. When you are standing in the middle of anxiety and fear bubbling up within then it is easy to get dragged down with it. To lose faith in yourself and your abilities. When that happens focus on your breathing first to calm and clear your mind. Then look to the past for a bit of strength and confidence in what you can do. Think about the times you have made it through difficult situations in the past. Doing this helps you to go from feeling powerless to feeling like you are standing on firmer ground again.

9. Let the feeling in to let it go. Sometimes an anxious feeling can feel sticky and vague. You don’t know exactly where it is coming from or what is causing it. It can be hard to get rid of. A bit of an odd solution that has worked well for me in such situations is this: Allow and accept that feeling. Don’t try to keep it out. Don’t try to fight it. Even though many of us have learned to do those two things to negative feelings throughout life. Instead, this time, just let it in and observe the feeling in your mind and body without judging it. If you let it in and just observe it for a couple of minutes something wonderful happens. First it may feel uncomfortable and more intense. But then the feeling loses power. It weakens. Often to the point that it just vanishes. Or so you can let it go without much effort. Because when you accept the feeling and let it in you stop feeding it with more energy (as you would when you tried your hardest to keep it out or to fight it).

10. Let it out into the light. When you keep something inside of you then your head can become an echo chamber that magnifies and doubles the anxiety and fear in a situation. So let it out instead. Talk to someone close to you about the situation at hand. Just venting to someone who will listen can help you to get a more grounded view on what's happening.

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