According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. This includes generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and more – and means that about 8% of the population suffers from some form of anxiety. Unfortunately, for many of those people, anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand.
Some brush off anxiety as the worry disease, but the disorder consists of much more than just "worry." It is in fact characterized by the Anxiety and Depression Research Center of UCLA as consisting of "anxieties and fears [that] are overwhelming and persistent, often drastically interfering with daily life."
Sometimes this means feeling like the walls are closing in when you're in a big group then it passes, and sometimes the effects of anxiety can be extremely crippling and much worse. The tips listed in this article are little ways we've found to cope with milder forms of anxiety. For those suffering from intense anxiety and/or depression, we strongly recommend you seek medical attention and care.
You don't feel like yourself.
First off, it is possible to have anxiety without being socially awkward. These are two entirely different things, and are actually often misconstrued by society's view of the disorder today. Personally, I'd have to say that the worst thing about anxiety is not feeling like yourself. For example, you could be a social butterfly – until you start to feel anxious. Then, your whole mindset changes. It will even sometimes come about when you’re doing something you normally enjoy, like hanging out with your friends. In fact, that’s another misconception: Anxiety does not just happen when you’re stressed, though of course it's more likely to occur then.
You get the sense that people think there's something wrong with you.
What you have to remember is that you are not your anxiety. It is not you: It's a disorder, and a secretive one at that – one that can sneak up on you and tap you on the shoulder when you least expect it. Feeling as though others notice this change in you and are judging you for it will not help you in any way. Shedding yourself of that perception, then, is definitively one of the biggest steps forward in dealing with your social anxiety.
You have the occasional panic attack.
If you've ever experienced having a panic attack before, you know how debilitating and disturbing it can feel. If you haven't, imagine the worst-case scenario: This can mean anything from feeling as though the walls are starting to close in on you, to undergoing a sensation of panicky claustrophobia, racing heartbeat, sweating, and other symptoms that come on suddenly. You will find it hard to breathe. It can happen within a five-minute span, or build up over a couple of hours. You could deal with it your whole life.
Think of it this way: Panic attacks are caused by your body producing the same biochemicals released when you undergo extreme stress, but often without the same overt situational triggers.
As someone who used to suffer from mild anxiety, I've discovered that the little things – setting reminders on my phone, sticking Post-It's on my mirror at home so that I can see them while getting ready every day – have been the biggest help in reminding myself to stay focused and centered. The real problem with anxiety, whether it's social or generalized, is that it can take you out of yourself and it's hard to find your way back. These are a few tricks I've found to help me
Set daily reminders.
I set reminders on my phone that pop up in the morning and remind me to ground myself each and every day. Try this one: Ground yourself. Take deep breaths and set your intention for the day. Focus on a feeling of calmness and serenity. Today will be a good day, because you will make it so. Because you are determined, focused, grounded, calm and ready, it already is.
Realize that when there’s an endless flow of thought, that creates its own problem. Now when it’s anxious thought, that’s even worse. The solution behind that is to STOP THINKING. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. When you have anxiety, over-thinking is your own worst enemy. For an anxious person, an influx of nervous thought can pretty much feel crippling to the mind. The solution, then, is to find a way to control that flow of thought and make it work in your favor. With meditation, slowing down and doing just that can help quell your tendency to feel anxious.
Create your own mantra.
Like affirmations, a mantra is the perfect way to remind yourself that you’re still you, even when you feel that sinister, anxious feeling creeping up on you. The trick is to tell yourself that whenever you start to feel anxious. Focus. Breathe. And most importantly, remember that you can get through it. If a mantra isn't your thing, perhaps there's a happy thought or activity you can do when you feel the rush of anxiety set in to help bring you to a better place mentally.
Again, if your anxiety feels like it's too much to handle on your own, please consult a medical professional.