Your Health: Coping with anxiety

Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 5:25 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, impacting about 19% of adults and 7% of children.

Medication and psychotherapy are often the first treatments for anxiety, but there are some things you can do, on your own, to ease the worry.

More than 40 million Americans live with an anxiety disorder. If you have anxiety, the intense fear and worry can be crippling – even if you’re in a safe situation.

“Anxiety doesn’t make any sense,” said Kathleen McHugh. “It’s irrational it’s unreasonable, but it’s very real to that person in that moment.”

McHugh, a licensed psychologist, said there are some ways to help calm yourself during an episode of anxiety. First: try distraction. It could be as simple as scrolling through your phone or reading a book when you feel anxious.

“But you do it purposely, you say, ‘OK, I’m going to distract myself right now. I’m going to put my focus on this other thing,’” McHugh said.

Also – practice positive self-talk. Repeating phrases like “I’m OK” or “I’m doing what I can” can help redirect your worry. Another approach is the 5-4-3-2-1 method of grounding. You locate and say five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Focusing on your senses brings you back to the present moment.

And what should someone else say to an anxious person?

“Don’t say ‘there’s nothing to be anxious about,’ or ‘Why are you anxious about that?’” McHugh said. “Do say ‘I hear you. You’re feeling scared. You’re feeling anxious.’”

Relaxation exercises like mindful meditation or yoga also calm anxiety. Another suggestion: try a cold or hot shower. A cold shower can jolt your system and distract your thoughts and a hot shower will loosen tense muscles.

You might also want to reduce your caffeine intake if you’re prone to anxiety. Research shows that in people with panic issues, caffeine consumption can increase levels of anxiety and the chances of having a panic attack.

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