What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in Australia. One in four people are likely to experience anxiety, at some stage in their life (Beyond Blue, 2022).
Anxiety is a clinical term that describes a persistent sense of heightened arousal and anticipation of future threat (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Anxiety also often results in our brains learning over time to perceive neutral stimuli as threats. Other symptoms of anxiety include:
● Being more easily fatigued
● Difficulty concentrating
● Muscle tension
● Sleep disturbance
If you have anxiety or know someone who might be experiencing anxiety, seeking treatment with a psychologist can be helpful. However, there are also other strategies that can be helpful in coping with anxiety.
Coping Strategies for Anxiety
● Focus on the present. Anxiety is an emotional state in anticipation of future threat. Therefore our thoughts can often be oriented towards future worries that have not happened. Practicing mindfulness or meditation that focuses on noticing present thoughts in a non-judgement way can help minimize future-oriented worries (Vøllestad et al., 2011). Many mindfulness and meditation videos are available on mental health apps or Youtube.
● Get perspective on your thoughts. Anxiety can result in over-assessing the danger in a situation. Our brain becomes trained to associate neutral stimuli as threats. Talking with others to gain their perspective on your thoughts can help to assess the danger in the situation more objectively. This often leads to less anxiety.
● Challenge your anxiety. We often believe our anxious thoughts because it is linked to such strong emotions. However, anxious thoughts are usually not based on facts. Instead, they are typically a learned habit of thinking. Keeping in mind that anxious thoughts may not be true by testing out the anxious thoughts can be helpful to re-train the brain to not believe in these anxious thoughts as much, and therefore you feel less anxious.
● Distraction. Anxiety is a heightened emotional state that is linked to over-thinking that things will go wrong. These thoughts are like a never-ending conversation in our heads. It is often be very difficult to stop. Doing something that takes the focus away from the anxious thoughts can act like a circuit breaker in our minds. Writing down a list of helpful distractions and keeping it handy near you can help to take away any decision-making worries that might come up when choosing a distraction.
● Move your body. Anxiety triggers the fight/flight/freeze response. This releases cortisol, a stress hormone, into our bodies which maintains the level of anxiety. Exercise is known to reduce the body’s cortisol levels, and therefore helps to reduce the level of anxiety. Consider doing the recommended 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day (World Health Organization, 2022) to help reduce and maintain a lower level of anxiety.
If you are having difficulties with changing anxiety a professional can assist you with this. At the Centre for Clinical Psychology, we focus on using evidence based therapy for the treatment of anxiety and other problems. This is a best practice treatment that can help people with anxiety to make significant changes in their wellbeing. Call our team on 03 9077 0122.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
Beyond Blue (2022). Anxiety. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety
Vøllestad, J., Nielsen,M.B., & Nielsen, G.H. (2011). Mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions for anxiety disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 51(3), 239-260. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8260.2011.02024.x
World Health Organization (2022). Physical Activity. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity