Maybe it’s not stress, maybe it’s anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million Americans over the age of 18 are affected by anxiety — roughly 18 percent of the nation’s population.

That number is only for the diagnosed cases. There is a large population of people walking around with anxiety and other various disorders related to nervousness and fear, but they have not been diagnosed yet. This doesn’t mean that we all need to go running to our doctors but it is a good idea to stay mindful and aware of your own emotional state. Nervousness and fear is something that everyone faces at some point, daily or not. Whether it is test anxiety, public speaking, a job interview, or some sort of big event in your life, there are many ways to not only cope, but overcome.

Photo Credit: Porsche Brosseau

One decidedly good way of getting over those jitters or fears is breathing. I know, everywhere you look there is someone telling you to breathe, to calm down, as if you don’t know breathing is necessary to live. In this case it isn’t just breathing, it is purposeful breathing. One of the first signs of nervousness is shallower and quicker breathing. To combat this you must first stop and start to trick your body into taking longer, more peaceful breathes. After you stop to gather your thoughts, really start to focus on your breath and then breathe in for seven seconds. Then you must exhale slowly for 11 seconds or as long as you can comfortably. At first the extended inhalation and exhalation will feel forced and unnatural but as your body adjusts to the measured breathes, your heart rate should go back to normal and the breathing will feel more natural, and you should feel more at ease.

An important factor to overcoming fear is awareness and identifying the cause. Before you can begin overcoming fear, you have to be aware that your fears are causing havoc in your life. When fear gets into your head, it is hard to remember that there is anything else in your life except it. We as emotional human beings tend to get attached to these fears and dwell on them as if it is all that matters, when really, it is just taking over our lives.

You must remember that we are not our fears, we are the awareness of our fears.

The more we are aware and experience our fears, the more damaging it is. The less we dwell, the less the fears become us, and the more we feel like ourselves. A big part of awareness is identifying the cause of your fear. We may feel a certain way and get anxious, but if we don’t know the cause, we can never change it to feel better or even get over it. After you identify the root of your fear, you can work to lessen or overpower it by looking at pictures, practice facing your fear, or even just talking about it. The sooner you look at fear in the eyes, the sooner it goes away. Sometimes we fear things that seem so insignificant after we face it, that we realize we may have just feared fear itself.

Other ways of conquering anxiety and panic include power poses, reducing caffeine consumption, working out, and taking up more hobbies that are relaxing and easy on your mind while taking on less work. If nothing works then perhaps a therapist can help you look deeper into yourself and find the source of your anxiety. Another option could be medication, which is something you can always discuss with your doctor. A more productive and less cluttered mind is a happier and less anxious mind. Whatever you decide to do, just remember that nervousness and fear is not the end of the world, nor is it your entire world. It may take some trial and error, but you can learn to grab your problems by the horns and kick them out of your life!

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