6 Ways to Ax Anxiety
You may feel lightheaded, slightly nauseous, and simply unwell. Your thoughts may be racing, yet you aren't having a panic attack or difficulty breathing. If these symptoms sound like how you occasionally feel, "mild anxiety" may be your problem.
"Many, many people have the condition," says Lisa Rene Reynolds, PhD, author of Parenting Through Divorce: Helping Your Kids Thrive During and After the Split. "With mild anxiety, a person doesn't feel physically shaken up. They haven't missed work because of the problem, and they may try to minimize it. But it takes a toll and is terrible to live with."
Clinicians sometimes call the condition "sub-threshold anxiety," says Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "It's very common," he says. "It's in the gray area between having no anxiety and having an anxiety disorder, but it's very real."
6 Ways to Stay Calm
If you feel mildly anxious, but are not so terribly plagued by anxiety that you feel unable to function normally and get through your day, here are some ways you can feel better.
1. Accept that you have feelings of mild anxiety, Rego says. Facing your feelings and no longer avoiding them can help you be less stressed and worried. Once you acknowledge that you are anxious, you can work toward feeling better.
2. Pinpoint the anxiety. When you start feeling a little anxious, think about what's causing you to feel that way, says Michael McKee, PhD, of the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. "If you can identify what you are getting anxious about, you will look at it differently," he says.
3. Can't identify the exact cause? Make a list of three possible reasons for your worry, stress, and anxiety, Reynolds suggests. Next to each reason, jot down ideas for improving the situation.
4. Get moving, McKee says. "Exercise uses up some of that extra adrenaline that you are pumping out when you're anxious," he explains. "When you exercise, you release endorphins that not only calm anxiety but soothe pain. And as you become more physically fit, you get stronger and your balance gets better."
5. Learn how to relax and calm your mind. "Doing some deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and mindfulness/meditation exercises can be very helpful," Rego says. "Spend some time each day practicing one or more of these and you may be pleasantly surprised by how much better you feel."
6. Distract yourself with something fun and engrossing. "Sometimes it helps to just force yourself not to think about an issue that is stressing you out," Reynolds says. Try taking a relaxing shower, watch a TV show that you love, or engross yourself in cooking your favorite dinner—whatever will take your mind off things.
Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Phone interview, November 2013.
Lisa Rene Reynolds, PhD, author of Parenting Through Divorce: Helping Your Kids Thrive During and After the Split. Phone interview, November 2013.
Michael McKee, PhD, of the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. Phone interview, November 2013.
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