By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes
When my client, Lillian, sat down with me for our first meeting, I could feel the tension emanating from her before she even began to talk. She was a ball of nerves, so tightly wound that she was ready to burst—and burst she did. She sobbed about how miserable she was at her job, how bleak her financial situation was, and how stuck she felt in her current situation.
She’d kept her frustrations in for a long time, I could tell, and it was causing her a tremendous amount of anxiety.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, you’re not alone. Anxiety disorders are actually the most common psychiatric illness in the U.S. About 18% of the U.S. population suffers from some sort of anxiety disorder, and only about a third seek treatment. Data also shows that Millennials experience anxiety more than older generations: 30% of Millennials reported experiencing anxiety, compared to only 25% of Baby Boomers and 26% of Gen X respondents.
Stress and anxiety can take a huge toll on every area of your life, including your professional and personal life, as well as your emotional and physical well-being. In Lillian’s case, her anxiety was crippling her professional development. Fortunately, though, it’s a highly treatable condition.
Here are five tips for combating anxiety and getting your peace of mind back.
- Listen to yourself. If your life just seems to get busier and busier, you may start to experience anxiety without even realizing it. So take a few minutes to self-reflect. Are you worrying excessively or feeling nervous and restless? Are you irritable and having trouble relaxing? If so, you’re likely experiencing a form of anxiety. Don’t ignore the signs!
- Exercise. I could write for days about the plethora of benefits that come from regular exercise: lower rates of depression, better sleep, reduced stress, release of endorphins, improved self-esteem, but it can also have a tremendously positive impact on relieving anxiety. Whether it’s going for a run, doing some weights at the gym, or just taking a brisk walk, regular exercise can help ward off those all-consuming anxious feelings.
- Focus on self-care. Be selfish about your “me” time. Take time out to treat yourself. Get a massage. Take a long bath. Sleep in a few extra minutes. Do something nice for yourself every day to keep yourself grounded.
- Learn to relax. The benefits of relaxation are huge: getting sick less, better memory, and even lower risk of stroke and depression, to name a few. Easier said than done, I know. For those of us with demanding jobs and fast-paced lives, finding time to relax – or even meditate — can be hard. But it is possible, and necessary! Start practicing meditation. Go to a yoga class. Even integrating breathing exercises into your daily routine, which is incredibly easy, can help reduce stress and help you feel relaxed.
- Seek treatment. Like I said, anxiety is highly treatable. Therapy is an extremely effective method of dealing with anxiety disorders, even more so than medication since it addresses the cause of the anxiety and not merely the symptoms. And it’s an added bonus that most health insurance covers such treatment and makes it easy to find a doctor.
- Chill on the coffee. Studies show that coffee makes anxiety worse. Perhaps it’s time for you to switch over to a healthy, non-caffeinated tea!
If you’re experiencing anxiety, it’s probably permeating into more areas of your life than you realize. Lillian had no idea until our meeting how much her stress and anxiety was consuming her and controlling her life. But she got help. She was able to effectively treat her anxiety (she pursued therapy, which worked wonders for her), and eventually was able to score a job with a salary that not only allowed her to dig herself out of her financial hole, but also enabled her to plan her first vacation in 5 years — to Fiji! Talk about relaxation. Don’t be a victim to your anxiety anymore.
Follow Lillian’s lead…all the way to Fiji!