Today, I would like to talk about how to protect yourself from anxiety.
There’s a reason why I want to talk about this today: Yesterday I made a mistake. I did everything wrong. I overworked, allowed myself to think negatively all day, didn’t give myself any breaks, and suffered a panic attack.
It was my first panic attack in a long time.
I used to suffer from panic attacks all the time. Then I changed my lifestyle and took action to protect myself from anxiety. It worked. I hadn’t suffered anxiety for over a year. That is, until yesterday. I made the mistake of failing to look after myself, and I suffered an anxiety this attack as a result.
So for both you and me, I am writing this article all about the different ways to protect yourself from anxiety. I hope it helps to save you from suffering.
Best Ways Of Preventing Anxiety
For starters, I do recommend reading this list of anxiety tips from the Anxiety And Depression Association of America. They recommend the following:
- Taking time-outs (mindful moment can help)
- Eating well-balanced meals
- Limiting alcohol and caffeine
- Exercising every day
- Deep breathing
- Counting to 10 slowly
- Let go of your idea of perfection
- Be positive
- Volunteer to help others
- Learn your triggers
- Talk to others about anxiety
These tips, however, are for the general management of anxiety and stress. There is much more we can do to protect ourselves from anxiety attacks.
Here are my top tips.
1: Be aware of your ups and downs
Arguably the best way to defend yourself from anxiety is to be aware of your mood at all times. Have you noticed that you’re gradually becoming more stressed? If so, take some time off and relax.
You want to take action when you start to feel anxiety. Don’t let it develop. Notice when it’s beginning and take action right there and then.
2: Monitor your thoughts
Your thoughts are some of the best indications of how you are feeling deep down. By monitoring your thoughts you will be more aware of when an impeding anxiety attack. You can then change your thoughts so they are more positive and less anxiety-provoking.
In particular, look for fatalistic thinking (“This is the end”, “If [X] doesn’t happen I’ll be finished”, etc). Also, monitor the thoughts you have about yourself and others. Are your thoughts kind and gentle, or harsh and judgemtnal?
Keep an eye-out for harmful thoughts and, when you notice them, change them.
3: The basics (diet and exercise)
We already know this, but it always bears repeating: Your diet and exercise habits can have a huge impact on your mind. One of the best ways to protect yourself from anxiety is to maintain a healthy diet and to exercise daily. Here’s a great guide to the best diet for anxiety prevention. And of course, daily exercise helps too. According to research from Harvard, the best exercises for anxiety prevention are aerobic exercises and walking. If you’re exercising outside, do it somewhere relaxing, like in a beautiful park.
4: Daily Meditation
My personal favourite way of preventing anxiety is to use these daily meditations for anxiety relief.
It’s particularly important to maintain a daily meditation practice. Studies indicate that we get most of the benefits of meditation from meditating every day for eight weeks. Individual meditation sessions should last approximately twenty minutes.
While there are different meditation technique that help with anxiety, some of the best are mindful breathing, forest bathing, loving-kindness (metta), and vipassana (insight).
5: Always breathe mindfully
If you meditate, you will know that sometimes your mind is calm and aware, and other times you are lost in thoughts and feelings. One good way to prevent anxiety is to always maintain your mindfulness. And the very best way to do that is to always breathe consciously.
You don’t have to dedicate your entire mind to the breathing process. Instead, try to maintain a light awareness of the breath while you go about your day. This will prevent you from slipping into mindlessness, and will therefore help to safeguard you from anxiety.
6 Relax your body
Another sign of anxiety is physical tension. When you start to feel anxious or stressed, you will notice the onset of certain symptoms. For instance, you might notice tension in your neck or that you are grinding your teeth. When you notice these physical symptoms, take steps to relax your body.
One good way to relax your body is to practise gentle, mindful stretching. For instance, if you start to feel anxious at work, you can do some gentle stretching in your office chair. If you’re at home, you can go further and practise Progressive Muscle Relaxation (progressively tightening and then relaxing different parts of the body).
By relaxing your body, you will also relax your mind, which will help to prevent anxiety.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from anxiety is to get enough sleep every night.
To stay healthy the mind needs relaxation. That’s partly why meditation helps with anxiety and stress.
The recommended amount of sleep is eight hours. If you get much less than your mind will not have enough time to heal at night, and the result will be negative moods, harmful thoughts, and perhaps anxiety attacks.
If you suffer from insomnia, you might struggle to get your eight hours’ sleep. Try meditating an hour before bed, cut down on caffeine, exercise early in the day, and turn off your TV and other devices at least one hour before bed. This will help your mind to unwind before you go to bed.
8: The Final Warning
When you’re about to suffer a serious anxiety attack, there will be many signs. Thoughts, feelings, physical tension, feeling rushed, not sleeping… if you start to notice these signs, you have a choice: Continue as you are and suffer an anxiety attack, or change and prevent anxiety.
When the alarm bells go off, be willing to do whatever it takes to prevent an anxiety attack. Yes, take a day off work. Yes, relax. Yes, get away from things that make you stressed. Your actions at these moments will determine whether you suffer an anxiety attack or prevent one. And it is totally your choice.
Sometimes it can feel like we have no control over anxiety. But the majority of the time we do have control. We can take positive steps to steer ourselves back towards calmness. In doing so, we will avoid anxiety.
You do have the power to prevent anxiety. The key is to monitor your thoughts and feelings, and when you notice things heading south, immediately take steps to prevent the anxiety attack.
I failed myself this week. And I will be stepping up my mental health regime to protect myself from future anxiety attacks.
Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison