Is Managing Anxiety Difficult? Self-Care Plays a Crucial Role

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The recent challenges caused by the coronavirus could cause anxiety in many people. Anxiety affects our overall mental, emotional and physical functioning. Therefore, in these difficult times, it's good to take steps to maintain our balance and improve our functioning.

When we face anxiety, we develop excessive worrying and uncertainty about a situation. It is caused by our body’s natural response to stress. Let’s say we are preparing for an important event, we might develop a thought like, “what if things didn’t turn out well as expected?” At times, these thoughts multiply and increase anxiety.

It goes like this…an intrusive thought causes anxiety and anxiety causes another intrusive thought. These thoughts and feelings adversely affect the body and cause psychosomatic symptoms. These are “chained patterns of reactions.”

To put it simply, as thoughts grow intense and painful, they affect our mental, emotional and physical functioning.

Anxiety aggravates after traumatic incidents. Past traumatic incidents cause people to become apprehensive over their present actions; they panic or worry excessively about the consequences.

For instance, after experiencing spousal abuse in the past, a victim might lack trust towards the next partner. The victim might develop many “what if” thoughts when beginning a new intimate relationship. An anxiety-driven thought would be like, “what if this new relationship ends up being abusive again?”

Anxiety is present in many mental health disorders. Some of them are generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, depression and stress.

Some physical symptoms caused by anxiety are breathlessness, racing thoughts, uncontrollable overthinking, irritability, sleep problems, loss of appetite, irregular heart rate, panic, difficulty concentrating, trembling, shaking, sweating, hot flashes, irregular bowel movements and fatigue.

Here I will share five self-interventions that would be useful. Let’s begin.

1. Breathe and Pay Attention To The Pauses Between Breaths

This method has been the most commonly used method to calm us down. It is to simply watch the inhalation and exhalation of breath. But….what if breath watching gets bored?

We can modify our breathing techniques by paying attention to the pauses between breaths. What are breath pauses and how to do this?

As we complete our inhalation of breath, there will be a pause (breath turning) before the start of exhalation. And after exhalation, there will be a pause (breath turning) before the start of inhalation. Pay attention to these two pauses to make breathing patterns more interesting.

This method brings us into the present moment and “keeps us away from the dark tunnels of anxiety.”

2. Think About Your Favorite Person

This method gives us some pleasure in our mind, makes us happy and relaxed. One way to manage worrying is to plant happiness into our minds. Start talking to yourself about what you like about this favorite person. Ask yourself…what is something that you learn from this person that would be useful for you to manage anxiety? This method also provides you with a form of covert support from your favorite person.

3. Self—Affirmations

3a. Tell Yourself…. “my mind is not in control of me, I am in control of my mind.”

You need to keep reminding yourself clearly that “you are the master.” In the beginning, telling yourself that you are in control of your mind may not be easy, especially when battling anxiety. But with constant practice, these words will nourish you with inner strength and lift you up from anxiety. We have to believe that “words have power.”

3b. Tell yourself: “Your name, relax…you are doing great, you are doing safe and fine. You have the ability to solve this.”

The mind is like a plant. You need to provide “sunlight, fresh water and add healthy nutrients for it to grow well.”

I would describe sunlight as the positive messages we receive from people, fresh water as the content we consume into our minds from reading or social learning. Nutrients are our own self-affirmations.

So…if we are constantly hearing negative information about ourselves from people (no sunlight), absorbing unconscious messages like demoralizing remarks, exhausting vibes, negative actions and behavior, biases or clouded perceptions (stale water) or we are always telling ourselves that, “I am not competent or I might not succeed”(spoilt nutrients), we are going to raise our levels of anxiety. Therefore, we have to be very aware of what we plant into our minds.

3c. Other self-affirmations that could be included are:

-I am loved

-I am strong

-I am doing great

-I am learning from my mistakes

- I am becoming better daily

-I have the ability to achieve

- I have compassion towards myself

- I am grateful

- I am contented

- I have faith

You can add your own favorite ones.

4. Speak About Your Problems To The Person Who Listens Actively

Painful thoughts and emotions need a release. It is good to talk to someone whom you trust and who can listen actively. Active listening is listening without judgements and empathizing deeply. By talking to this person, you will achieve a sense of emotional catharsis. It gives you clarity in understanding deeper about the challenges that you are facing in your life.

5. Physical Health

Managing anxiety is not only about what we put into our minds, it is also about what we consume as food. We should practice having a healthy and balanced diet. High caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and sugary foods give us temporary relief from reality. The post effects of these foods only raise anxiety, feelings of distraught, health problems and lead us to further self-harm.

A healthy body gives us a healthy mind. A healthy mind is a mind that looks forward to consuming healthy foods and doing regular exercises for the body.

It might be easy to smoke a cigarette and drink a glass of beer to cope with painful thoughts and emotions but it takes hard work to do push-ups and planks. We tend to pick the easy ways to cope. However, we have to remember that…what comes easy, may not deliver fruitful results when it comes to healthy functioning and achieving success. The healthy way seems hard but it will lead us to a higher state of physical, mental, emotional and social functioning.

Strengthening the mind requires strengthening the body. A workout sweats your body and also “sweats away intrusive thoughts” that are not beneficial to your progress. Good physical health gradually builds the mind’s ability to handle challenges.

Lastly, if you are under medical treatment or seeing a therapist, be compliant in taking medications and attending appointments. This will help you in managing and improving your physical and mental health.

Final Words

There are good and bad thoughts. We should use the good thoughts to fuel our energy and manage the harmful ones.

It is good to have forethoughts about our future so that we are well-prepared. But never allow forethoughts to chew on our peace and healthy functioning abilities.

I believe these five ways would be useful to anyone who wishes to feel better and grow stronger.

Thank you for reading my insights.

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A Couples & Family Therapist, Writer, Author, & Spiritual Yogi. I’m the author of the empowering personal spiritual guide book: The Cosmic Romance with Existence & The Golden Halo, a free substack newsletter that delivers enlightening stories and poems to your inbox.


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