Anxiety is a well-known disorder in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 40 million American adults have an anxiety disorder. Learning how to overcome anxiety is a familiar challenge for people throughout the country.
Anxiety is excessive stress or worry related to a general or specific situation. People with anxiety often obsess over the potential for unwelcomed events or outcomes to occur. Overcoming anxiety requires more than just choosing not to fret when situations arise. If you have this type of mental health disorder, there is a specific process that many use to overcome anxiety: the AWARE approach.
AWARE: Overcoming Panic Attacks
Panic attacks frequently occur for people who have an anxiety disorder. Overwhelming nervousness and worry can have debilitating effects, including an inability to focus while at work or school. Some individuals may completely avoid interacting with other people, including friends or family members to try and avoid experiencing panic attacks. Coping with anxiety attacks can be a challenge, and it’s crucial for you and others to recognize that.
The AWARE approach is one method used to overcome anxiety attacks. The five steps to AWARE are:
- Acknowledge & Accept
- Wait & Watch
However, the approach will not automatically end an anxiety attack, nor will it ensure that you’ll never experience an anxiety attack again. The five-step approach can increase your comfort and decrease your obsessive and fearful thinking during an anxiety attack.
1. Acknowledge and Accept
The first step in the AWARE approach involves admitting that you are scared and possibly panicking. Do not attempt to convince yourself that your anxiety isn’t real or try to ignore it. Acknowledge and accept the presence of your anxiety and fear, but remind yourself that you are not in any danger, despite what you may believe.
2. Wait and Watch
Rather than attempting to distract yourself or reduce your anxiousness, don’t do anything except breathe. Deep breaths can decrease nausea and feelings of panic. Rather than jumping into another action, though, wait. Your anxiety attack is temporary, and entering a fight-or-flight mode may cause additional anxiety as a result of your chosen action.
“Watching” your anxiety attack involves being aware of how your anxiety attack operates. Some people fill out a diary or keep notes in their smartphone to track important characteristics of their attacks. Doing so can help you learn how to dull a panic attack when it begins.
During a panic attack, your role is to make yourself comfortable. The ways you can do this include:
- Deep breathing
- Think about the specifics of the anxiety attack, such as what caused it
- Write down the particulars of the anxiety attack
- Attempt to relax the areas of your body that are most affected by an anxiety attack, such as upset stomach or chest palpitations
While anxiety attacks always end, they can occur again at any time. If one immediately happens after you complete these steps, repeat them. Anxiety attacks sometimes happen just seconds after one ended.
Every anxiety attack ends. Remind yourself of that fact during the attack. Remembering that the panic is temporary can be soothing during a time of perceived crisis.
How to Cope With Anxiety
There are specific types of anxiety disorders that may affect people in different ways. For instance, social anxiety causes people discomfort and nervousness primarily in social settings or in their relationships with peers. Phobias cause fear and panic in fixed situations.
Whichever disorder you have, coping with anxiety isn’t painless. Each person may have a unique method of managing their anxiety. Whether it’s going for a long walk or partaking in a hobby, there are many ways people recover from anxiety attacks. Other strategies for coping with anxiety include:
- Playing team sports
- Aerobic activities such as jogging or swimming
- Watching television or a movie
- Listening to music
An activity or approach that is effective for someone else may not work well for you. Finding a coping strategy that reduces your anxiousness is important once you’ve mastered the AWARE approach. Participating in an activity can take your mind off of your anxiety and whatever causes your disorder to manifest.
Another effective coping mechanism is discussing your anxiety with another person. Mental health professionals are available for counseling sessions and can help people uncover the roots of their anxiety and address concerns in a private, comfortable environment.
When to Talk to Someone About Anxiety
Experiencing an anxiety attack is reason enough to seek medical help. Consider talking to a mental health professional about your anxiety attacks and the particulars of your anxiousness.
Anxiety often causes people to drink excessive amounts of alcohol or use dangerous drugs to cope with the symptoms of having an anxiety disorder. Substance abuse may provide temporary relief from anxiety, but it is not a long-term solution to coping with a mental illness. If you’ve relied on drugs or alcohol to manage your anxiety, call The Recovery Village.