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FOR YOUNG ADULTS: Tips For Managing Anxiety

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Anxiety in young adults is not one size fits all.  Some suffering from anxiety may find themselves in a fight or flight mode as seemingly small things start to make them feel uneasy. Anxiety can feel like a room is closing in, bit by bit, creating an impending doom of being crushed with no resolution. Others may feel the symptoms of anxiety physically such as a pounding in their chest, shaking, or sweating. It can also be a feeling of worry or even racing thoughts.

No matter how anxiety presents itself, it is always an unpleasant experience. Anxiety can be painful, frustrating, and scary. Anxiety can make it seem like there is no way out, but there is.  We have a few tips to reduce anxiety naturally when it starts taking hold. These tips can be used in the moment of an anxiety attack, or as an ongoing practice to help keep anxiety to a reasonable and manageable level.

Ten Effective Tips for Managing Anxiety For Young Adults

1. Go Outside

Nature is healing. Find a way to take yourself into nature. This can be in a big way, or as simple as stepping into your backyard. Go on a hike. Have a snowball fight. Jump in a pile of leaves. Even if you don’t have a lot of time, take your books outside and study under a tree. Contact with nature and natural light is proven to significantly reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic in patients diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Find a guided mindfulness meditation on YouTube and sit in a comfortable position focusing on your breath. If that is too difficult, do an active meditation while jogging, swimming laps, or any other repetitive, low-impact exercise. If movement doesn’t feel like a good option for mindfulness, look into forms of expression that don’t require exercise. Think art or playing a musical instrument. These activities can help us achieve mindfulness when sitting still or moving isn’t working. Even 10 minutes of mindfulness exercises per day can make a difference in overall anxiety levels.

If you are new to meditation or need a little guidance, check out the free app headspace. You can get guided meditation assistance through their app and on Netflix! Learn to manage feelings and thoughts, create a comfortable environment for restful sleep, learn to move and be mindful at the same time, boost your ability to focus, and more.

3. Breathe

Concentrating on one’s breath by counting how long it takes to inhale and exhale distracts the mind and calms emotions. Breathe slowly. Count to five as you inhale. Hold for five. And exhale for five. Exhalation forces the body to relax and releases muscle tension. Scientific studies have actually shown that deep breaths and breathing exercises are one of the best anxiety management tools for college students.

While breathing seems like a fairly straightforward practice, different types of breathing exercises can help you feel more relaxed. Diaphragmatic, alternate nostril breathing, lion’s breath, and other forms of breathwork are all helpful in their individual ways. Trying a few when you aren’t feeling particularly anxious to see what works best for you is a great way to support yourself when you are feeling anxious.

For other tips and guided breathing exercises, download an app called “Breathing Zone”. Try this easy-to-use app to analyze your breathing rates, which in turn will guide you to set target breathing to calm down and lower your blood pressure.

4. Connect To Your Senses

Grounding exercises that focus on the five senses can stop a panic attack in its tracks. If you feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety, sit down (preferably outside) and out loud name five things you see, five things you feel, five things you hear, and five things you taste or smell. (i.e. I see my feet. I see a maple tree. etc.) Then move on to four, then three, then two, then one. Notice how your emotions have shifted once you get yourself into the present moment.

Simply noticing your surroundings can help you feel more present when you are experiencing profound anxiety, but one way to prevent an anxiety attack is to take preventative measures to help you connect to the present moment. Practices like sound therapy, art therapy, and aromatherapy can help your body feel safe and able to handle stressful situations as they arise.

5. Exercise

Even if it’s 20 minutes every few days, exercise is a great tool for managing anxiety. Exercising releases natural chemicals into your brain that make you happier, more alert, and energetic, and increase cognitive processing. There are plenty of exercise techniques that help you feel more calm, like yoga and pilates. Weight lifting, walks, dancing, and group fitness can also help you manage anxiety. Part of managing your anxiety is giving a few different types of exercise a try to see what helps you feel better.

Give yourself plenty of time to figure out what works for you, and don’t give up if you try a certain type of exercise and don’t feel better. It will take trial and error to find something that works for you. Not only is exercise great for your mood, but that cognitive boost helps you focus on checking more things off of your stressful to-do list.

6. Build Daily Routine

Chaos is a well-known trigger for anxiety and stress. Building a daily routine is a great way to prevent those triggers by limiting the chaos that causes them. Develop a morning and evening routine that includes self-care, hygiene, exercise, and proper nutrition. Give yourself enough time for all your responsibilities and structure your free time. Unplug from technology at least one hour before bedtime in order to ensure that you have a proper sleep cycle and are getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night.

Starting your day with gratitude, good music, a nutritious breakfast, a quick walk outside, and a big glass of water sets you up for success. Even if the rest of your day isn’t productive or things don’t go your way, you at least got in some exercise, some sunshine, a good meal, and some water. However, starting your day with these basic practices will likely give you the momentum to have a productive, happy day.

7. Reduce Clutter

Just like controlling chaos with a daily routine, you can prevent triggering an anxiety attack by watching the level of clutter around you.  Excessive clutter overloads our minds with stimuli and signals to our brains that there is work to be done, making it hard to relax. Clutter-free environments lead to an organized and focused mind.

8. Reach Out To Friends And Family

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the people closest to you for help. Friends and family are great outlets for venting stress and for giving advice. And they are equally great sources of laughter and fun. The Mayo Clinic calls laughter one of the best stress-busters around.

9. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, And Other Drugs

Caffeine might seem like the answer to getting through college or a double shift at work, but it can also make you jittery, increasing the feeling of anxiety or panic. Try a caffeine-free tea instead to boost metabolism and calm the nerves.

Alcohol and other drugs may numb anxiety momentarily but keep in mind that over time they can make anxiety worse.

10. Seek Professional Help

If you continue to have anxiety, it could be time to seek professional help. Take a trip to your college mental health clinic, or find a therapist in your area. If you are struggling to call, ask a friend or family member to set up an appointment for you. There are many options for treating anxiety from talk therapy, to experience-based programs, to medications for severe cases. A professional can help identify the best combination of treatment for you.

The Role of Sleep in Anxiety Management

Our bodies function, at least in part, because of hormones. Hormones affect every aspect of our lives, cueing us to eat when we are hungry, run when we are afraid, and sleep when we are tired. When our hormones are out of balance, it can cause a litany of problems, and one of the biggest culprits when it comes to anxiety management are the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are crucial for waking, running when there is a threat, and responding to intense situations. They certainly aren’t bad hormones, but when there is too much cortisol or adrenaline in your body, when you don’t need those hormones, it can cause you to feel anxious.

When you don’t get enough high-quality sleep, your body produces these hormones to keep you awake. But you’ll also feel anxious and not rested. Sleep deprivation also amplifies the reactions in your amygdala and anterior insula, both brain structures that are associated with anxiety. Getting enough sleep can help your body feel better and reduce the need for your body to produce extra cortisol and adrenaline to keep you awake and focused.

How do you ensure you are getting enough high-quality sleep? It’s simply a matter of sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is the practice of giving your body time to wind down from the day so that when it’s time to get in bed, you are relaxed and sleepy. Experimenting with the right sleep hygiene routine is crucial as all our bodies and needs are different, but there are some basic tips you can consider. Taking care of your body before bed with a shower, clean teeth, skin care, water, and even some light stretching can help cue your body for sleep. Eating a high-protein snack a few hours before bed can help your body maintain blood sugar levels while you sleep, ensuring a restful night.

Perhaps most important is managing your technology use. Blue light from screens can interfere with melatonin production, and melatonin is crucial for good sleep. Not to mention that the stressors of social media, games, and TV all ramp up our stress hormones, making it difficult to fall asleep. At least an hour before bed, limit your screen time and plug your phone in a different room so you don’t scroll in bed. These changes can be overwhelming, so take it one step at a time, implementing some of these sleep hygiene steps slowly so they can become a solid part of your routine.

Understanding and Managing Anxiety Triggers

We all have events, experiences, or sensations that trigger anxiety. Some of these triggers are harmless and even helpful—feeling anxious when you see something slither on the ground is important for survival. That anxiety tells your body to run, which is the right choice if there is a poisonous snake on the ground. However, most of the triggers in our modern world aren’t poisonous snakes; they are public speaking, fear of rejection, worries about the future, and social problems. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between the fear we feel when we see a snake and the fear we feel right before a presentation and respond as if our life is on the line in both cases. Understanding your triggers and learning to manage them can help you reduce the impact your triggers have on your life.

Identifying Personal Anxiety Triggers

Most of us know that creeping feeling of anxiety, and we do a lot to avoid the experience. However, knowing what exactly triggers our anxiety can be a lifeline, not necessarily so you can avoid anxiety-triggering experiences, but so you can understand yourself better. In fact, knowing your triggers can help you improve your response to your triggers. Keep track of your anxious moments in a journal or your notes app. Note the date, where you are, what is happening, and who you are with. Consider small details like what clothes you are wearing (were they too tight or itchy), the lighting (were the lights flickering? Too bright?), and what smells or tastes you experienced.

Then consider the larger scale of your life; are you applying to colleges? Is there a test coming up that you are worried about? Is there a friend problem happening in your life? Note which bigger life events cause you anxiety. As you track your triggers, note the similarities so you can better understand the underlying cause of the trigger. Ask your family, friends, and mental health professionals if they’ve noticed a pattern of triggers for you and then note it. It might feel like a waste of time to gather information about your triggers, but knowing your triggers can help you gain a sense of understanding and compassion for yourself as you deal with anxiety.

Types of Anxiety Triggers

Generally speaking, triggers can be internal or external. External triggers include anxiety-inducing events, and while this can be any external event, there are some common triggers to consider. Crowded places, loud noises, social events, a messy environment, a public speaking event, a performance, an overpacked schedule, and school stress can all cause anxiety. Internal triggers can be a result of health issues, lack of sleep, hunger, substance abuse, caffeine, and hormone imbalances. Considering that many teens and young adults are in the throes of some of the biggest developmental and social changes we go through as humans, it’s no wonder that anxiety is a common problem.

Strategies for Managing Anxiety Triggers

There are many strategies for dealing with anxiety, many of which are in your control. Getting good sleep, staying hydrated, exercising, eating a balanced diet, going to therapy, journaling, enjoying your hobbies, spending time with loved ones, and mindfulness are all behaviors to manage your anxiety.

But sometimes, even utilizing all the best practices for managing anxiety triggers, you will still feel anxious. To some degree, anxiety is part of life, and understanding and managing your triggers is part of the growing-up process. Avoiding all your triggers likely won’t lead you to your desired life. Small, controlled exposure to your triggers can help you learn to cope with the anxiety the triggers cause. For example, if you fear large crowds, slowly start exposing yourself to a small crowd. Notice how your body feels, utilize breathwork and mindfulness, and have a friend join you to reassure you that you are safe. Slowly move to larger and larger crowds using all your anxiety management techniques and notice that your body and mind have settled.

You don’t have to do this for all your triggers unless they are interfering with daily life—you don’t have to expose yourself to sharks if you have a fear of sharks unless you are a marine biologist. But you should look at your life and goals, note which triggers must be managed, and start working on those.

Why Pure Life Adventure Wilderness Therapy

While practicing these tips for anxiety strategies on your own will be beneficial, you or your loved one may find that more drastic measures may need to be taken. It may even be necessary to take a gap year or gap semester to learn how to manage anxiety.

Pure Life Adventure’s wilderness therapy programs for gap year students and others teach many of the anxiety management techniques mentioned earlier but on a grander scale with licensed therapists guiding the way. Our holistic outdoor adventure therapy will bring you into the healing outdoors and teach coping mechanisms when anxiety starts to pull you in. We practice meditation cooking therapy, and engage in self-confidence-boosting activities while actively removing the clutter that is life. Clutter isn’t always about things, but it can be the daily pressures of school, family life, guilt from failed expectations or simply being overwhelmed with which life step to take next, which is why therapeutic gap year programs can be helpful. Pure Life will give you or your loved one the opportunity to step outside their noisy world into the healing nature of Costa Rica.

If you are a young adult that is experiencing anxiety and debilitating stress in life, considerembarking on a gap year experience and joining Pure Life Adventures as an anxiety treatment right now.  You will also learn tools that will benefit you for years to come. Reach out to Pure Life today to find out how to be a part of our adventure program.

If you are a parent or loved one of a young adult who needs anxiety treatment, please contact Pure Life today. We would love to chat with you about your young adult’s needs and how Pure Life can help. Our program for young adults with anxiety will make good use of their gap year or gap semester by teaching them coping skills, building self-esteem, and helping them learn how to navigate the pressures of adulthood.

If you want more information on anxiety and anxiety disorders and how to manage them, download our free white paper “Young Adult Anxiety”.

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This white paper was sponsored by Pure Life, a research-based Wilderness Adventure Therapy program for young adults, located in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Pure Life offers safe, effective, and clinically-sophisticated treatment options for young adults.

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