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Generalized anxiety disorder is a psychological condition that causes the sufferer to worry about issues that may not even register on a non-sufferer’s radar. That sense of worry is a nearly constant sensation. Even when everything seems to be going right, those with anxiety disorder usually have that nagging feeling in the back of their head that it can all fall apart at any moment. Learning coping skills is beneficial, even if you are taking medication for the disorder. By augmenting certain aspects of your lifestyle and training your mind to react differently, you can create your own personal arsenal against constant worry and anxiety attacks.
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Exercise as many days a week as possible, preferably every day. The Anxiety Disorders Association of American explains that people who exercise regularly may have a lower rate of anxiety than those who do not exercise at all. If you are new to exercise, start out slowly. Take a walk around the block or go for a short swim every day. Once your body becomes accustomed to working out, increase the intensity. Choose an activity that you enjoy, if exercise becomes a chore it will just be one more issue causing worry.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
Pay attention to your diet and try to eliminate anxiety triggers. Caffeine can increase anxiety in some people because it acts as a stimulant. FamilyDoctor.org also recommends avoiding alcohol because, although it may seem to help you relax at first, in the long run it can actually increase your anxiety. Excessive sugar increases your blood sugar temporarily, but the subsequent crash can leave you feeling miserable.
Learn to Relax in Your Own way
While meditation can do wonders for stress, it is not for everyone. For some, trying to lay still and force their mind to go blank can cause more stress and frustration. Relaxation comes in many forms. Read a book, go for a walk, veg out in front of the television with a mindless comedy. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into someone else’s ideal relaxation technique. Find what works for you and stick with it until it no longer works, and then find another tactic.
Create a “Happy-Place" Bedtime Ritual
Insomnia is often an unfortunate side effect of excessive worrying, and in turn, that lack of sleep can lead to more anxiety. Put an end to this vicious cycle by turning in earlier and turning off you mind. Designate your bed as a worry-free zone by training yourself to “think happy thoughts" at bedtime. Construct a happy place in your mind to think about when you’re trying to drift off to sleep. Design your dream house, create the ultimate football team, or even just mentally redecorate your bathroom. Just choose something relaxing that distracts you from your worries. When you get into bed, tell yourself to go to your happy place. You may need to repeat this several times as you find yourself floating back to the worrying thoughts, but with a little practice you’ll be lulling yourself to sleep with pleasant thoughts in no time.
Schedule Your Worries
When worries interfere with your ability to accomplish daily goals, treat it like a client and force it to make an appointment. Put it on your schedule and worry when it is most convenient for you. Give yourself about ten minutes a day to focus on whatever is bothering you. During the rest of the day, when you find yourself starting to worry, remind yourself that it needs to wait until its designated time. Like the “Happy Place" ritual, this takes a lot of practice, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature.
Acknowledge the Worst-Case Scenario
If the worrying wont let up until you have gone over every possible negative result that can occur, acknowledge the worst-case scenario, and make a plan of attack for dealing with it. For example, if you’re worrying about your job stability in a bad economy, outline a plan of attack for what you would do if you lost your job. Once your plan is outlined, remind yourself that you already know what you’ll do if the worst happens and try to let it go.
Remember, not every tip will work for every person. If one doesn’t work, try another. Don’t force yourself into someone else’s idea of the “right way" to manage anxiety. This is a sure-fire way to bring more stress into your life instead of less.
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Author’s own experiences.
Anxiety Disorders Association of America: Exercise for Stress and Anxiety
Helpguide.org: How to Stop Worrying
Family Doctor: Anxiety and Panic- Gaining Control Over How You’re Feeling