Sufferers of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) are often plagued by worry when there’s no real cause for it. It’s common to stress over day-to-day things like money, health and family, but those dealing with GAD can feel anxiety about simply making it through the day. This worry can sometimes hamper their ability to do everyday tasks. GAD affects about 3.1% of American adults in a given year (and affects twice as many women as men). So, how do you cope with GAD and keep it from interfering with your life? Here are a few tips.
Get to Know GAD
Is what you’re feeling normal anxiety or is it Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Are your worries overwhelming you? Is your anxiety accompanied by edginess or restlessness? Are you feeling more tired than normal? Does your mind often go blank? Are you irritable? Are you physically sore and achey? Do you have trouble falling asleep? These symptoms are all associated with GAD; if you suspect your have GAD, talk to your doctor. You can also do a self-screen to assess yourself right away. Once you’ve figured out the source of your anxiety, you can begin to cope.
Understand Your Worry
Worry causes anxiety; one of the best ways to manage your anxiety is to work on identifying and tracking your sources of worry throughout the day. When you feel yourself getting worried, make a quick note, record the time of day, the situation, the source of your fear and your anxiety level. Review your notes at the end of each day. Worry becomes less threatening when you’re able to track it and identify it.
Challenge the Negativity
Ask yourself if the thought you’re having is a productive thought or a negative thought. Is the thought you’re having one that will move you forward or are you spinning your wheels, spending energy on something out of your control? If you catch yourself in a negative thought, put it aside. This is easier said than done, but it’s important that you step out of the cycle and acknowledge that you’ve done or are doing all that you can to improve the situation that is causing your anxiety.
Classify Your Worry
Are you worried about a current problem or a hypothetical problem? For example, worrying about supporting three children on a minimum-wage salary is a current problem, while worrying about the future is a hypothetical problem. While a current problem might represent a very real challenge, you have some control over the situation. With a hypothetical worry, however, you have little to no control over what the future may bring (apart from taking care of your general health). Classifying your worries can help you better understand them.
Work on Relaxation
When we’re feeling anxious, we tend to hold our breath. Practice controlled breathing instead (also known as “paced respiration”, “diaphragmatic breathing” or “deep breathing”). Controlled breathing enables a full oxygen exchange, meaning more oxygen enters the body and more carbon dioxide exits the body. Inhale through the nose, count to five (feel your abdomen expand), hold the breath for a beat and exhale through your mouth. This type of breathing eases stress and anxiety,and lowers blood pressure and your heart rate. When anxiety strikes, the first step is to breathe deeply.
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