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7 Ways to Effectively Cope with Anxiety

If you're dwelling on a problem and it's keeping you up at night, you're not alone. It's common to replay the issue over and over in your head, trying to find a solution. But this can actually make the problem worse. When you're anxious about a situation, it can be tough to fall asleep. And not getting enough sleep can make anxiety worse.

Anxiety is a perfectly normal and common response to stress. It's our body's way of preparing us to deal with potentially dangerous or uncertain situations. We all experience it to some degree, though some people may experience it more severely or more often than others.

If you're experiencing persistent anxiety, it's important to consult a doctor to see if a prescription might be the best way to manage your symptoms. However, there are plenty of other effective methods for reducing anxiety that don't require a prescription.

How to Effectively Cope with Anxiety

Here are some proven, prescription-free ways to reduce anxiety and live a happier, more anxiety-free life.

1. Be kind to yourself when you get “crazy” thoughts.

You may have intrusive thoughts from time to time that make you worry you'll act on them or that they mean you're going crazy. Our minds are creative. Synapses are firing randomly, and sometimes a "crazy" thought will pop up. This is normal and nothing to be worried about. Simply describe the thoughts as if they're curious objects on a shelf, and move on.

2. Know when you’re having false alarms.

Although it's natural to worry about things like leaving the iron on or having a heart attack, there's usually no need to worry. These are unlikely scenarios that usually don't result in any harm. Try to relax and enjoy your life instead of worrying needlessly.

It's important to keep in mind that many of the thoughts and sensations that we interpret as being alarming or dangerous are actually just background noise. It can be helpful to think of them as fire engines passing by - we may notice them, but we don't need to worry about them.

3. Let yourself breathe; You don’t have to be in control all the time.

There's no use in trying to take control of things that you can't actually control. It's like a swimmer who panics and starts slapping at the water--it doesn't do anything. Instead, focus on what you can control and let go of what you can't.

When you let go and surrender to the moment, you actually feel more in control. It may seem like a paradox, but it's true. Imagine you're floating on water, with your arms outstretched. Look up at the sky and enjoy the feeling of being in the moment.

4. Smile through it.

Smiling is scientifically proven to help reduce stress levels, even if you don't feel happy. A 2012 study from the University of Kansas found that smiling during stressful situations can help ease anxiety. So next time you're feeling overwhelmed, try flashing a smile—it could help you out more than you think.

This coping technique may be helpful for managing low-level, temporary anxiety in situations such as an upcoming work presentation or social event. If you're suffering from chronic depression, it's understandable that you might need more help than just being told to "grin and bear it." However, even if that's the case, it's still useful to have this reminder in your back pocket for when panic starts to set in.