4 Simple Steps to Deal With Stress and Anxiety

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Do you wonder if you may worry too much? And how much anxiety is officially "too much?" To answer these questions, you may need to deepen your understanding of stress and anxiety, and how they help and hurt you.

Why Worry?

Stress and anxiety actually do have their functions if they're not experienced in excess. They push us to make necessary changes in our lives. They signal when we may be in danger, and inspire us to take action to get ourselves out of danger. (This danger can be any type of threat to our physical or emotional well-being, from not doing well on a test to losing a job to losing a friend.) In this way, feelings of stress and anxiety are healthy and necessary; without them, we may not act in our own best interest.

How Much Stress and Anxiety Is Too Much?

The point at which worry and anxiety become unhealthy is when they immobilize us rather than inspire us to act.

Whether we're worried about things in the future, or so stressed and anxious we can't move forward, the stress takes a toll on our minds and bodies, and affects our health. Excessive or unmanaged anxiety can become unhealthy if it takes the form of an anxiety disorder, for example.

Dealing With Anxiety

So now that you understand the nature of stress and anxiety a little better, we can focus on eliminating them. The best remedy for anxiety is self-examination and action. Here are some easy steps to follow:

  1. First, look inside. What is causing you to worry? Ask yourself this question and think carefully about your answer. Be specific. (For some situations, this may be readily apparent; other times, you may really have to think about it.) Writing in a journal or talking to a friend about it can help you sort out your feelings.
  2. Then, decide what action, if any, should be taken. Try to figure out what part of the situation is under your control. Assess the problem to see whether the threat is real, or if you are blowing it out of proportion. If the problem is just a hypothetical situation or a worst-case scenario, decide if it is really likely that your fears will actually come to fruition.
  3. Next, come up with a plan that tackles the part of the problem that is under your control. Taking action to protect yourself is a good way to channel nervous energy and provides reassurance against your fears. It is, in most cases, the healthiest response to realistic fears and worries. You may not be able to fix the entire problem, but even taking some steps toward improving your situation can significantly minimize your anxiety.
  4. Once you have done all you can, just let it go. Like everything in life, this is easier said than done, but with practice, you can get pretty adept at letting go of excessive levels of stress and anxiety. You can do this by focusing on something else, reminding yourself of the solutions you have worked on, or trying some stress management strategies that can help you feel more centered and at peace, such as prayer or meditation, journaling about your feelings, or listening to music. Getting regular exercise has been found to be especially helpful in combating the physical effects of anxiety and stress.

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

If you still find yourself concerned on a constant basis, you may want to talk to someone about it, either a friend or a professional, depending on how severe your worry is and how much it is affecting your overall stress level.

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