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Any number of situations can trigger anxiety. Of course, it is expected in stressful situations, like worrying about health-related issues, public speaking, taking a test, or meeting someone new. However, it can be debilitating when underlying feelings become excessive, all-consuming, and interfere with daily living, but there are healthy ways to cope with anxiety.
Typical stressors may become overwhelming as the world enters its third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants. Moreover, U.S. residents are split ideologically concerning mask and vaccine mandates, systemic racism and are dealing with an extraordinary barrage of political rhetoric.
COVID-19 has had a significant effect on lives. Many people deal with stressful and overwhelming challenges that cause intense feelings in adults and children. While public health guidelines such as social distancing help reduce the virus’ spread, they can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness, increasing stress and anxiety.
One of the first healthy ways to cope with anxiety and stress is to take a break. Step away from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. While it is good to be informed, hearing about situations that cause adverse or agitated reactions constantly can be unsettling. Consider limiting exposure to stressful events by turning off electronics.
The next method for alleviating anxiety is to get a good night’s sleep. Experts recommend seven to nine hours each night. However, six hours of uninterrupted sleep is better than eight hours of restless, interrupted sleep.
There are two changes a person can make to improve their sleep. Both are also helpful in keeping stress at bay — they are changing eating habits and exercising. Each is important for managing anxiety.
Limit rich, fatty, and spicy foods for a better night’s sleep, especially during the evening meal. Fatty foods take a long time to digest fully, and spicy foods can cause nighttime indigestion.
Regularly exercising can help a person fall and stay asleep. For example, walking briskly or riding a bike for 20-30 minutes a day is helpful. But make sure the exercise is done in the morning or early afternoon, so there is adequate time for the body to cool down enough for a good night’s sleep.
Many consider journaling to be a beneficial tool when considering ways to cope with anxiety. In addition to keeping a diary of daily activities and feelings, a journal can help reduce stress by allowing the writer to explore topics that raise their anxiety level, recognize what situations or people trigger stress, and figure out how to accept what they can control and what they cannot.
Figuring out how to manage anxiety and which habits work best requires time and experimentation. Some things will work, and others will not. Do not allow setbacks to stop progress. Exercise patience.
Lastly, develop a sound support system of family, friends, and confidants. Let them know what the journaling reveals, or ask for help changing habits that can cause anxiety levels to rise. Seek professional help if the anxiety is unmanageable or overwhelming. Most importantly, connect with a community or faith-based organization.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
CDC: Coping with Stress
The Los Angeles Times: With COVID surging again, here are eight tips to help with your Omicron anxiety; by Ada Tseng
Harvard Health Publishing: Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety; Uma Naidoo, MD
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