If you deal with anxiety, you’re not alone. In the U.S., 40 million adults are affected by anxiety each year. And the symptoms of anxiety — including restlessness, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating — can be paralyzing to the point where you feel incapable of tackling day-to-day tasks.
But there are a few things you can do today to help combat feelings of anxiousness. Here’s what you need to know to get your stress level under control.
Are Anxiety and Depression the Same Thing?
First things first — anxiety and depression have a few overlapping symptoms, so it’s important to understand the difference between the two so you can make sure you’re taking the best approach.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), people with depression may experience similar symptoms to people with anxiety, such as irritability or sleeping problems. But there are key differences between the two disorders.
“When we’re in an anxious state, we’re physically amped up — our heart beats fast, our breathing is quick and shallow, we may sweat more easily,” says Lauren Blackburn, M.A., a professional counselor specializing in anxiety, disordered eating, and trauma resolution. “Our thoughts can be racing, and we can feel emotionally overwhelmed.”
With depression, she says, you’re more likely to feel tired and unmotivated. “We might tell ourselves, ‘It doesn’t even matter if I meet that deadline,'” Blackburn says.
If any of these symptoms sounds familiar, don’t try to diagnose yourself — talk to a mental health professional who can help you figure out what’s causing your symptoms.
Can I Take Supplements for Anxiety?
There’s not much conclusive evidence behind the use of supplements for anxiety. Research has shown that certain nutritional supplements may be effective in supporting key bodily functions that can be impacted by anxiety — but your best bet is to talk to a health professional who can help you figure out the best options for managing your symptoms and staying healthy.
What’s the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?
Stress is a natural response to a challenge — a looming deadline, a grueling workout, a shark attack, etc. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is a reaction to stress — when you’re faced with a challenging situation, it’s normal to worry about the outcome.
But someone with an anxiety disorder may feel excessive worry and anxiousness, even when they’re not under stress. And chronic stress can contribute to anxiety, so managing your stress level may help lessen feelings of anxiousness.
5 Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiousness
“Anxiety takes us out of our body and into our mind; out of the present and into the future,” Blackburn says. That’s why strategies that connect you back to your body — like nutrition and exercise — can help you worry less, she says.
Here are a few steps you can take today to reduce stress and lessen feelings of anxiousness.
1. Practice deep-breathing exercises.
Taking deep, cleansing breaths can help improve your mood and relieve stress so you feel more focused, present, and relaxed. Try using an app on your smartphone or watch to guide you through deep-breathing exercises.
2. Keep a journal.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal can help you pinpoint what seems to trigger anxiety symptoms. Research has shown that expressive writing can be a useful tool for people dealing with anxiety or depression symptoms, while a gratitude journal can be an effective mood-booster.
3. Focus on healthy eating.
Several studies have linked food with mood, so pay attention to how eating different foods makes you feel. (Hint: A journal can be helpful for this, too!) Support your health by eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and veggies.
4. Get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is a crucial part of life anyway, but research has shown a close relationship between sleep and stress. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your healthcare professional about ways to manage your symptoms.
5. Get some exercise.
Research suggests that exercise can be helpful in managing anxiety, especially if it’s high-intensity exercise. Another recent study found that yoga can also help reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. Focus on your workout, and allow yourself to be present in that moment while your worries take a backseat.