For many people anxiety can feel all consuming. It can feel overwhelming to even think about all the things you need to do to get to where you want to be. But what if I told you that you don’t need to do all the things all at once? What if it was as simple as taking one step at a time?
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reported that 40 million people struggle with anxiety each year making it the most common mental health disorder. Add to that the effects of the pandemic over the last two years—more people are experiencing anxiety now than ever before. In fact, it’s been said that we are in the midst of a mental health crisis.
When is anxiety a problem?
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. It’s normal to feel anxious when faced with a new situation. However, anxiety becomes a “disorder” when it becomes excessive, overwhelming and interferes with activities of daily living.
Put one foot in front of the other.
What does it look like to put one foot in front of the other when dealing with anxiety? Think small. This might look like waking up and practicing some intentional breathing before you even get out of bed. Then thinking about the next step, which might be to walk to the bathroom, brush your teeth and get a shower. Once that step is completed you move to the next task of getting dressed then moving on to eating breakfast, etc. Making sure to be mindful during each of these steps—what are you seeing, feeling, hearing, touching, tasting, identifying what you’re feeling and where you are experiencing that in your body.
Anxiety, worry, and fear are all related in that the focus becomes about what might happen in the future and feeling out of control. Remind yourself that you cannot control other people or situations outside of yourself. The only person that you can change is yourself. So, ask yourself, what is in my control? What choices do I have, and what do I have the power to change in this situation? That is where you can shift your focus.
Create a Routine.
Having a daily routine is immensely helpful in managing symptoms of anxiety. Knowing what to expect and when is helpful for many people.
1. Create space to meditate on scripture or a positive affirmation. Even if its only 5 minutes. Meditation is a powerful tool to calm the mind and body.
2. Exercise. Walking, jogging, yoga, hiking etc. raise endorphins in our bodies which in turn create an overall sense of wellbeing and feeling good. It also provides a welcome distraction from anxious thoughts and sensations.
3. Turn your phone off. The news, social media, always being easily accessible all create unnecessary stress in our lives. If nothing else, put your phone away at least 1 hour before bed to help your brain prepare for rest.
4. Set healthy boundaries. Practice saying no and remind yourself that you do not have to say yes to everything. Sometimes we overschedule ourselves which in turn causes stress. Take a moment to step back and assess whether your schedule aligns with your values/desires.
5. Spend time with positive, encouraging people. Having a support system is great for mental health and reminds you that you are not alone.
If you feel like you’ve “tried everything” and you’re still struggling with that nagging anxiety, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Trained professionals are available to help you learn to manage and alleviate your symptoms.