There are three ways to break down anxiety symptoms: Physical Symptoms, Thoughts, and Behaviors. Part I addressed the physical symptoms of anxiety. Part II addressed the thoughts of anxiety. Below are quick life hacks for the behavioral symptoms of anxiety.
When we are feeling anxious, our behaviors can be summed up in one word: avoidance. The cognitive behavioral tips below help address this issue.
Limit Distractions: Try to identify the obvious, and not so obvious, ways you distract yourself. Often, these distractions are ways we avoid the tasks, people, or situations that cause us anxiety. Common distractions include watching TV, browsing the internet, playing video games, excessive reading, or frequent eating and sleeping. It’s easy in the short term to avoid doing something – but often following through with the task you’re avoiding creates relief after.
Systematic Desensitization:This is a very methodical way of approaching something that you are avoiding. In short, the goal is to gradually expose yourself to the anxiety trigger, working your way up from the least intense situation to the most intense situation. This process usually takes a number of weeks. This works especially well with social anxiety or phobias. For example, if someone has a fear of crossing the bridge, the least intense situation could be crossing a small bridge first, in a car, possibly with other people in the car for support. This would be repeated until it feels normal. Gradually the person would work themselves up to a more intense situation, such as walking along the Golden Gate Bridge by themselves on a cloudy, windy day.
Reduce alcohol use: Using alcohol or other substances is another form of avoidance. Drinking when you are feeling stressed “teaches” you that you cannot handle anxiety situations without some type of chemical assistance. Essentially, you are robbing yourself of an opportunity to “teach” or reinforce the truth, which is you can work through anxiety without alcohol. Additionally, alcohol impacts serotonin (a neurotransmitter associated with mood) in your brain, making it harder to manage anxiety.