It started when I was about 10 years old, usually at night, as I lie in my bed trying to fall asleep.
There was a strong, overwhelming feeling that something was wrong. Something bad was on the horizon, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I didn’t know how to prevent it, but I had the deep sense that I needed to.
How do you feel when you have anxiety?
Many people with anxiety experience intense feelings of stress, fear, or what is commonly described as a “sense of impending doom.”
Have you ever had a meeting that you’re dreading? Or a stressful personal conflict that you know you have to deal with? That’s kind of how my experience with anxiety started: something looming in the near future, stressful and ominous and sure to cause problems for me.
Unlike rational feelings of stress, though, anxiety as a mental health issue has no specific cause for you to pin down. So you’re left with this omnipresent feeling of dread with no real cause, which means there’s no way for you to resolve that feeling.
It just shows up, real as any rational feeling you have, and you’re left grasping for ways to try to relieve it.
How many people have anxiety?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), anxiety is the most common mental health disorder worldwide.
Even so, only one-third of people with anxiety actually get help. Statistically, here’s how that breaks down:
- Globally, 1 in 13 people have an anxiety disorder. (WHO)
- In the U.S., 18% of people have an anxiety disorder. (ADAA)
- This means that about 40 million people in the U.S. have anxiety. (ADAA)
- So, about 13.2 million people succeed in getting help for their anxiety each year. (ADAA)
- However, in the U.S. alone, 26.4 million people have anxiety that goes untreated every year. (ADAA)
Symptoms of anxiety
Now, it should be noted that people with anxiety disorders can experience anxiety in different ways. The above description is how I experience it, but some other common symptoms of anxiety are:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Trouble concentrating or focusing
- Excessive weight loss or weight gain
- Continual or extreme worrying
- Excessive or irrational fears or phobias
- Panic attacks (sweating, trouble breathing, intense fear, and rapid heartbeat)
- Irritability or agitation
- Muscular pain or tension
- Tendencies to avoid other people and social situations
- Ruminating thoughts
- Gastrointestinal or stomach problems
If you’re experiencing one, or several, of these symptoms, it’s possible that you have an anxiety disorder. In which case, you may be wondering how to get rid of anxiety.
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As someone who used to suffer from intense anxiety every day, but now has it under control (most days), this is what I’ve learned.
How to get rid of anxiety
1. Adjust your expectations
I think it’s important to address the fact that, if you have an anxiety disorder, it’s unlikely that your anxiety will ever completely go away.
Notice that above I said that I have my anxiety under control most days. This is because, as someone with an anxiety disorder, I still have bad days. And I always will. That’s okay. What’s important is that I now know how to recognize when my anxiety is acting up, what triggers it, and how to deal with anxiety episodes when they happen.
Don’t expect to wake up one day and never experience anxiety again. That will not happen. Instead, adjust your expectations to understanding how you can live with and manage your anxiety in a way that will no longer allow it to control your life. This mindset will help you be able to move forward.
2. Get a diagnosis
It might seem obvious to some, but in order to get rid of your anxiety, you need to be sure that you actually have an anxiety disorder.
Sometimes anxiety can be a symptom of a larger mental health issue, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder.
Therefore, it’s important that you talk to a medical or mental health professional about your mental state so that you can be sure you’re getting to the root of the problem.
I actually didn’t know that I had an anxiety disorder until I started speaking with a therapist. I was initially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder by my family physician. As depression and anxiety often occur together, this was completely accurate. I was definitely depressed at the time.
However, after I started taking medication for my depression and was feeling better, I noticed I was still struggling with some mental health issues. It was only after I started talking to a therapist that she brought it to my attention that I also had a problem with anxiety.
I know it can be daunting to set up an appointment to get a medical opinion, but please do it. You need to know what you’re working with before you can take steps to start feeling better.
You can bring up these issues with your primary care physician and they can get you pointed in the right direction. I always thought I’d have to find a psychiatrist or something, but you really can talk to the doctor you already have to get started.
3. Go to talk therapy
Many of us would like to think that we can get rid of anxiety on our own, but the truth is that talking with a mental health professional is one of the best ways to overcome your anxiety.
There’s so much information online that it can be hard to know if what you’re reading is actually going to be something that works for you, or if it’s even good advice at all.
Even this post, which I’ve tried to make sure is as helpful and actionable as it can be for you, is still not the work of a medical professional.
You need to talk to a professional to make sure you’re getting proper, informed advice. Also, it’s really nice to be able to bring up your concerns with someone who can provide you real solutions that they know are likely to work for you based on all their other past experiences with clients.
I, personally, use the BetterHelp app to talk to my therapist once a week (this is not sponsored, I just want to share the resource that I use). There are also many other therapy resources available online these days, which has made mental health care very accessible for most people.
I know. People like to prescribe meditation as a cure for everything. But, as someone with anxiety, I can tell you that meditating has personally helped me get rid of anxiety many times. Both in the moment when I’m feeling anxious, as well as long-term, by helping me to reduce my feelings of anxiety overall.
There are a few reasons for why meditation can get rid of anxiety. For one, meditation inherently incorporates multiple tips for calming anxiety as recommended by the ADAA. Mainly:
- Taking deep breaths
- Doing counting exercises
- Taking a time-out from the day
Meditation is also a great way to let your mind work out what’s causing you stress. You don’t necessarily have to be thinking about why you’re feeling anxious for your brain to work through those problems.
If you’re interested in trying meditation, I’d recommend trying guided meditation programs, as opposed to sitting in silence listening to all your feels bounce around inside your head. As my therapist once pointed out to me, people with anxiety do better when they have something to focus their energy on, and meditation is no exception.
Obviously, meditation is a more natural way of addressing anxiety, which many people prefer.
As I mentioned earlier, I do take medication to help with my mental health, but not everyone wants to go that route. So, in addition to meditation, here are a few additional suggestions to get rid of anxiety naturally.
How to get rid of anxiety naturally
If you struggle with anxiety but don’t want to (or can’t afford to) get on medication, there are some natural things you can do, as well as avoid, to help calm your anxiety.
5 Actions to get rid of anxiety naturally
Here are some proactive steps you can take to get rid of anxiety, both in-the-moment and overall:
- Exercise. Many of us hate to hear this, but if you exercise more it will help calm your anxiety. If for no other reason, than because you’ll have less energy to worry because you’ll be spending your energy working out. Also, exercise helps release endorphins that make you feel good.
- Sleep more. When you’re well-rested you’ll be mentally healthier. Especially because anxiety can cause insomnia and broken sleep, making sure you’re sleeping enough can be crucial to improving your mental health. If you have trouble falling asleep, again, meditation may help.
- Eat healthy foods. I know, another tip many of us hate to hear over and over again, but it does help. Healthline says that eating a diet high in sugars can have a negative effect on your mood and temper, so opt for less cake and more kale. (You get the idea.)
- Write out your thoughts. Writing can be a cathartic experience for dealing with thoughts and emotions (she said as she neared the 1,600-word-mark for this post). Try writing in a journal or in a note-taking app on your phone to get your feelings out.
- Hang out with your pets (or your friends’ pets). Many studies have shown that spending time with animals is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety. If you don’t have pets of your own, see if you have a friend who wouldn’t mind a pet-sitter now and then.
4 Things to avoid to get rid of anxiety naturally
Just as important as it is to take action against your anxiety, there are certain actions you should avoid, too. Some things to avoid as recommended by Healthline are:
- Alcohol. Although it may feel like alcohol relaxes you, this sensation is only temporary. Alcohol may actually cause your anxiety to come back worse after your buzz wears off.
- Caffeine. Because caffeine amps you up and can make you jittery and alert, it does not pair well with an anxious personality. Try switching your coffee for herbal teas.
- Nicotine. Whether you smoke cigarettes or use a vape pen, ingesting nicotine in any form is not good for people with anxiety disorders. Like alcohol, nicotine may feel like it’s helping in the short-term but can worsen your mental health overall.
- Recreational drugs. Similarly, though you may have a recreational drug of choice that makes you feel good in the moment, many such drugs cause imbalances in the serotonin and dopamine in your brain, which can destabilize your mental health overall. It’s best to avoid recreational drugs of all kinds if you’re trying to get rid of anxiety.
Can you ever get rid of anxiety?
Anxiety is often a life-long mental health issue for those of us unlucky enough to be burdened with it. However, it is entirely possible to get rid of the negative impact anxiety has on your life.
You’ll likely still have an anxiety disorder, but it doesn’t have to rule you. You can have anxiety and still be happy. You can have anxiety and still sleep like a baby. You just need to know how to manage it. I hope the information I’ve provided here will help you do that.
I’ve shared my experiences with anxiety. What’re yours? What has helped you? Share your story in the comments below, or tag us on social media.