10 Ways To Deal With Anxiety Symptoms Because Your Mental Health Matters

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How To Deal With Anxiety Attack Symptoms When An Anxiety Disorder Is Damaging Your Mental Health

Anxiety can be destructive but it doesn't have to be.

What is anxiety?

According to Dictionary.com, the anxiety definition is: "Distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune."

Despite what most of us think, anxiety is not all bad. Yes, dealing with anxiety can be extremely destructive, causing physical, psychological, and emotional discomfort.

However, anxiety is there for many reasons and often serves important purposes.

RELATED: How Accepting The World (And Yourself!) Can Help You Manage Anxiety & Stress

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older or 18.1 percent of the population every year.

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9 percent of those suffering know how to calm anxiety and receive treatment.

The physical symptoms of anxiety include shortness of breath, racing heart, pit in the stomach, headaches, stomach aches, and so on.

Left untreated, constant anxiety can contribute significantly to chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, depression, drug addiction, and eating disorders to name a few.

People who are suffering from high anxiety often try to get rid of it, convinced it is a problem.

The way anxiety disorder symptoms makes you feel certainly makes it problematic. But, getting rid of anxiety means getting rid of some of the ways that have helped you to achieve goals, accomplish challenges, and protect yourself.

Here are 10 powerful coping skills that will teach you how to deal with anxiety and its symptoms so you can manage and, hopefully, prevent discomfort.

1. View chronic anxiety as a way to cope

It is an automatic reaction to external pressures and internal struggles. Understanding this can help you use anxiety as a platform for positive change.

Often, anxiety is learned and has genetic roots, usually traced back through your family history, possibly generations. If you lived with a parent who struggled with anxiety, for example, it is likely that you learned aspects of it. 

If you're wondering what causes anxiety, take a look at your family history. 

2. Seek to understand what anxiety means

Anxiety is caused by patterned thoughts that come from fear. It starts with thoughts that lead to feelings or emotions that generate thoughts.

Most often, the primary emotion is fear. By itself, fear is a powerful and essential emotion that protects and prepares us. Before you realize it though, you are deep in thoughts of worry or regret, among other thoughts as described below.

3. Don't believe the negative thoughts

Most thoughts that stem from fear are negative patterned thoughts that are known as cognitive traps. These thoughts are not fact but you believe them anyway.

This includes all-or-nothing thinking, catastrophizing, overgeneralizations, personalization, comparing yourself or situation to others, and several more.

Some common examples are:

  • "Bad things keep happening to me."
  • "Why can’t I be shorter, taller, thinner… like my friends, who have more than I do?
  • "If I don’t get this job, I will never find a job."
  • "If I don’t stay up all night and study, I will fail the exam."
  • "I know he doesn't like me because he didn't respond quickly to my text message."

4. Know how you respond to fear

There are 5 patterned responses to fear for those who struggle with stress and anxiety:

  • Thinking about the past — past mistakes and regrets.
  • Anticipating negative outcomes in the future, also known as anticipatory anxiety.
  • Worry thoughts, mostly stemming from cognitive traps.
  • Physical symptoms as described earlier.
  • Actions that you take because of fear.

5. Shift your focus to the emotion rather than the thoughts

The key to managing and reducing anxiety symptoms is learning to separate the emotion of fear from your patterned thoughts. Most of us have not learned how to manage our emotions.

When you pay attention to fear, it can tell you what is bothering you and what needs to change.

You can learn how to control anxiety by learning how to control your emotions first. 

6. Let go of past mistakes

There’s nothing you can do now to change the past, but you can learn from the past and do things differently today.

Most of us believe past experiences repeat themselves but they do not have to. You can interrupt patterns and change what is happening in the present, thereby changing the future.

RELATED: 8 Low-Key, Totally Do-Able Ways To Manage Anxiety At Work

7. Suspend thoughts about the future

You do not have a crystal ball and can not predict the future, it is unknown and uncertain. If you really think about it, chances are just as good, if not better, that things will somehow work out.

Even if they don’t, worrying and feeling anxious about them now doesn't help in any way.

8. Consider alternative ways of looking at things

You have the power to change the way you react to people and situations. By slowing down and pausing when you feel scared, you can interrupt the cognitive traps.

Turn toward healthy distractions like taking a walk, going for a drive, or calling a friend. The intensity of the fear will fade and you will think in a much clearer and calmer way.

9. Remember that you can control what happens today

When trying to understand how to cope with anxiety, think about living in the moment. 

The past is gone, the future hasn't happened yet but today is all yours. Think of one or two positive steps you can take today.

Choose actions that are good for you and will make you feel good in healthy ways.

10. Practice bringing your thoughts back to today

To help you with anxiety relief, utilize tools such as mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation exercises. Consider beginning therapy with a professional who is trained to guide you and teach these tools.

Remember that anxiety is there to protect you and help you prepare. It’s when fear takes over, only sees what’s wrong, and doesn't acknowledge what could be going well.

Figuring out how to get rid of anxiety does not protect you. However, calm and clear thinking does. Anxiety does not help you prepare but you already have the skills to prepare for just about anything.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Stop Fighting Your Anxiety (So You Finally Find Some Peace)

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Nancy Serling LCSW has a private practice in Manhattan, New York. She has been successfully helping others manage anxiety for over 20 years. To learn more about her work, visit Manhattan Therapists.

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