Anxiety is normal. It is your body’s response to stress. It’s often characterized by a feeling of fear or apprehension about future events - for example - one may feel anxious before giving a speech, moving to a new place or going to a job interview.

Although a normal feeling, there are times in life when your anxiety may feel like too much to handle. If your anxiety lasts longer than six months, doesn’t seem to have a trigger or affects your daily life, then you could be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Compared to ordinary anxiety which comes and goes, anxiety disorders are usually intense, debilitating, and extreme.

Who Can Anxiety Disorders Affect?

Anxiety disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age. Below are the most common disorders associated with anxiety:

  • Phobia – irrational fear of an activity, object, or situation
  • Panic disorder – recurring, unexpected panic attacks. A person who experiences sudden panic attacks may also develop a phobia (i.e. agoraphobia)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder – commonly known as PTSD, this type of anxiety is usually caused by a traumatic event
  • Separation anxiety disorder – the fear of being far or separated from loved ones
  • Social anxiety disorder – extreme fear of being judged by other people

What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

Anxiety symptoms vary from one person to another. But in general, people experience:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Increased heart rate
  • Inability to focus
  • Restlessness

How to Cope with Anxiety

Can I overcome my anxiety? Of course, yes! There are many ways to cope with anxiety. Read on to discover some of these ways.

1. Exercise regularly

We can’t stress enough the importance of exercise to your overall well being. Moving your body can ease your anxiety and boost your self-confidence. Aim for light, 30-minute workout sessions at least 5 times a week. It doesn’t have to be in a gym. You can always workout at home using the online tutorials.

2. Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol intake

Alcohol is considered to be a "downer" while caffeine is an "upper". Food and drinks containing these substances can kick your anxiety into overdrive. So, try to limit or avoid them. It’s not just coffee and soda. These substances are also present in chocolates, teas, weight loss pills, and even headache meds.

3. Practice deep breaths

Through taking deep breaths, you can help your mind and body to relax. This is why mindful practises like meditation and yoga are so effective! Here’s how to do it right:

Step 1: Lie down on a flat surface

Step 2: Put one hand on your chest and another hand on your belly

Step 3: Breathe in slowly (make sure you can feel your belly rising)

Step 4: Hold your breath for a second

Step 5: Breathe out slowly

Step 6: Repeat

4. Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is one of the many ways to cope with anxiety. But it’s not just how long you sleep - it’s also about how good your sleep is. Doctors recommend at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you find it hard to fall asleep, try these tips:

  • Create a routine and stick to it
  • Make sure your bedroom is free from clutter and your bed is comfortable
  • Avoid staring at phones or computer screens at least one hour before you go to bed (try reading a book instead!)
  • Keep your room temperature cool

5. Tame your thoughts

“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” – Invictus by William Ernest Henley

You are the boss. You can control how you react towards anxiety. When negative thoughts nag you, take control and turn them into positive ones. Don’t run away from your fears. Instead, face them head-on! The more you tame your thoughts, the easier it is for you to fight off anxiety.

6. Allow yourself to have 'worrying time'

According to experts, one way to cope with anxiety is to schedule your worry time. Set aside a specific time - let’s say 30 minutes a day - to confront your fears and anything that makes you anxious. Do this at the same time every day. No what-ifs. Focus on what’s bothering you and deal with it as much as you can.

7. Identify your triggers

Look for patterns in your anxiety attacks. Identify times, places, or events where you feel anxious. Write these down. Once you know what triggers your anxiety, you can work on ways to confront these triggers so you’ll be better prepared next time they come round.

8. Speak to your doctor or therapist

If anxiety is dampening your quality of life, then a doctor will be able to get you on the road to recovery. Whether they refer you to a therapist or prescribe you medication, there are many routes to take to win back a life without anxiety.