Anxiety can be a crippling condition to live with for both men and women. Everyday activities become nerve-wracking experiences and you often feel like you’re trapped in a never-ending web of worry and doubt. For women this can mean increased stress at work and home, detachment from your friends and an inability to engage with the things you used to enjoy.
The bad news is that women are twice as likely as men to suffer from anxiety disorders at some point in their life. This is partly down to differences in brain chemistry such as different hormone levels, and the increased social pressures put on girls from a young age may also play a part. Whatever the causes, if you are a women suffering from an anxiety related disorder, you are definitely not alone.
The good news is that with the right treatment and support women are just as likely to recover from anxiety as men. Every woman has the ability to fight against the stresses in her life and the negative thoughts and worries in her mind. Fighting anxiety is a day to day battle, but it’s one you can win. Here are six important tips to bring to the fight.
1) Accept That It Is Real
Do not buy into the perception that life-controlling anxiety levels are “just how you are” or something you’ll have to live with forever. Disregard the lie that anxiety can be beaten by just “chilling out” or “getting over it”.
Whatever anyone else tells you, anxiety is a real condition, with real psychological and biological causes. Having it doesn’t make you weak. Accepting the fact that you have an illness can help you to separate yourself from all the worry and fear you are experiencing.
2) Get Expert Help
Far too many women don’t get help from anxiety, whether due to shame, fear of being labelled, or just not thinking it’s a serious enough condition to require medical help. Going to a doctor or mental health professional about your anxiety is a big step, but it’s a crucial one in the road to recovery.
The range of anxiety treatments and solutions available offers something to suit every personality. As well as offering you expert counselling or therapy, mental health professionals can advise you on relaxation and self-help techniques to better help you combat your feelings of anxiety as well as reduce the likelihood of it returning.
3) Look After Yourself
Poor lifestyle choices can make existing anxiety conditions worse, so take good care of yourself. Basic things like getting enough sleep, cutting down on caffeine (especially after 4 pm) and eating healthy meals can really help reduce the symptoms and make you feel more like yourself. A nice bit of exercise can also work wonders for your mood, and relaxation strategies like yoga, meditation and mindfulness can really help you feel more in control.
4) Challenge Negative Thoughts
If you decide to get professional help then one of the most successful options is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The basic idea of CBT is to identify when you are thinking things that are irrational or unhelpful, and replace them with more healthy thought processes. This breaks the cycle of anxiety and gives you a more positive “internal voice” with which to think.
Next time you feel serious anxiety about something, stop. Tell yourself the anxiety you are experiencing is just a product of an illness. Try to imagine what the worst case scenario is. It’s probably not as bad as you’re imagining. Cut off your negative thoughts before they take hold and replace them with healthier ones.
5) Take it Slow
Recovery won’t happen overnight, and you are always going to have bad days occasionally. Find a balance between fighting the illness and not wearing yourself out. Pick your battles. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself. The road to wellness will have ups and downs and that’s perfectly normal.
6) Stay Yourself
Anxiety does not rob you of who you are. No matter what you’re going through, you are still the same unique, wonderful person. You are still a mother, sister, friend, teacher, doctor, jet ski instructor, professional sword-eater, or whatever else you were before getting ill. Keep doing things you love and act independently of the anxiety as much as you are comfortable with. Resist avoidance. Keep seeing your friends. Anxiety does not define you- it is not your identity. It’s just a condition, and it you will still be you long after it’s gone.
Author Bio: Angus Munro is a registered clinical psychologist and director of Angus Munro Psychology in Sydney. He excels in evidence-based therapies for a comprehensive range of Emotional and psychological challenges. One of his passions is engaging, educating and helping people work through all manner of mental health issues to live their best life.