Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such as a big exam, business presentation or first date. Anxiety disorders; however, are illnesses that fill people’s lives with overwhelming anxiety and fear that is chronic, unremitting and can grow progressively worse. The National Institute of Mental Health provides a detailed booklet that describes the symptoms, causes and treatments of the major anxiety disorders, with information on getting help and coping.
Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress
When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, these strategies will help you cope:
- Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
- Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
- Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.
- Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
- Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
- Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.
- Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
- Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
- Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
- Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
Fitness Tips: Stay Healthy, Manage Stress
For the biggest benefits of exercise, try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of the two.
- 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
- Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
- Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America has tips to manage anxiety and stress.
This helpful guide from The American Institute of Stress explores the causes and symptoms of anxiety in college students, as well as current and long-term health impacts from the condition and the ways universities are helping students who suffer from anxiety.
The Minnesota State University Mankato Counseling Center web site has an entire section devoted entirely to Test Anxiety! It also has suggestions for how to arrange your study area most effectively (75 watt bulb is best and on the side of the dominant hand), how to confront your test anxiety head on, how to cope with the feeling of being overwhelmed and some ideas for self-affirming statements (which is healthy “self-talk”) to help calm you.
Another website you can visit for ideas to manage test anxiety is Intervention Central. It includes effective study habits, tips to memorize content and reduce anxiety along with effective test-taking strategies.
“Social Anxiety,” which some people dismiss as “shyness” can be debilitating and limit you from activities you’d like to enjoy or people you’d like to meet. The fear of looking silly or saying something “stupid” can limit us and reduce the quality of our lives.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things. If you suspect you might suffer from GAD, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers on-line screening. Just print out the results and make an appointment at the UIS Counseling Center to share your results with a counselor.
Panic Disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. Panic attacks occur unexpectedly and sometimes even during sleep. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America website contains downloadable charts found in Facing Panic, Self-Help for People with Panic Attacks to help you practice and track skills you learn to overcome panic. Contact the Counseling Center to receive a correct diagnosis and receive help in overcoming panic attacks.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) provides many resources for OCD sufferers, their families and friends, and professionals. The IOCDF website presents extensive information about OCD and related disorders, tools for finding help, and a comprehensive range of resources and programs.