Most of us know that worry and anxiety are non-productive and can lead to stress and insomnia. But that does not stop most of us from engaging in these habits. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses diagnosed in the US, with approx. 40 million adults being affected. The good news is that anxiety and worry are both highly treatable, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Here are some strategies to try out that could help pull you out from under that fog.
1. Have a plan.
Worry starts off as thoughts that contain a negative spin on the "what if" game. It starts simply enough. What if I get into a car accident? But then this worrisome thought leads to the following… What if I can't get insurance to pay out? What if I have to take time off from work for health reasons? Will I get fired?
And the downward spiral of thoughts can be unending.
Curb these thought patterns by sitting down and developing a strategy. Worried about a car accident? Talk to a car or truck accident injury lawyer. Or at least have their phone number on hand. Unsure of your company's policy on health leave? Look it up. For every worry or anxious thought, turn it into an item on your to do list. Knowing that you can take action will stem feelings of helplessness and give you confidence that you are the one in control.
2. Take a time out to breathe.
Something as simple as modulating your breathing patterns can help calm your nerves and soothe a troubled mind. Here's how. The vagus nerve plays a role in sending signals that regulate your fight or flight response. Worry stimulates your vagus nerve, making you feel jumpy and stressed.
But how you breathe can soothe the vagus nerve, thus giving you a shortcut to calming yourself down. The method is as simple as breathing in slowly for the count of six, or however long you can manage. Holding that breath in for a couple of seconds and then exhaling for six seconds.
3. Keep those hands occupied.
Knitting, crocheting, cooking, gardening. A UK based study showed that those who kept their hands busy, even while watching distressing footage, suffered from less post anxiety. When your hands are busy, your brain is less able to store and encode visual images, according to researchers. So if an upcoming event is getting you worked up, do something that will literally take your mind off of it. Play a game smartphone game, bake, clean, or take up knitting.
4. Go to sleep earlier.
Stress and insomnia are conditions that research tells us are much worse for our health than many may have initially realized. But when we worry and let our thoughts run rampant, we are in danger of both ruining our sleep and letting stress into our lives. A possible cause that could be enabling your inner worrier? You might be going to bed too late.
A study found that those who go to sleep late experience more negative thoughts compared to those with good sleep habits. So a simple way to curb worry is to adjust your schedule so that you go to bed earlier. Of course, sleep has a host of other benefits outside of a boost in positivity. It has been linked to improved memory, enhanced athletic performance, weight maintenance and more.
If you are afflicted with anxiety or tend to overly worry, you may feel there is not much that can be done about it outside of popping pills. And that worry is just part of their character and the way they are. But often with only a few adjustments, a person is able to dial down the worry by a large percent and improve the quality of their life.