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5 simple tricks to calm your anxious mind

If you don’t live in a cave, chances are you have heard of the term ‘anxiety’. After all, statistics suggest, one in every five people on the planet suffers from anxiety. Given the sheer power of numbers, the disorder can be considered a global epidemic, if not as big a threat as diabetes or cancer. But it isn’t, because people are largely unaware of its harmful effects. Most people see anxiety merely as sweaty palms, heavy breathing, or “something that happens to others”.

Such lack of awareness about anxiety is what makes it an enemy of the human mind. “As per the latest research by National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences, Bangalore, an individual takes around 8 to 10 years to reach an expert for their anxiety-related issues,” says a Mumbai-based psychiatrist, Dr Hemant Mittal. He adds, by this time, anxiety becomes an integral part of one’s temperament making it difficult for a patient to recover from there.

To overcome anxiety, you need to know who you are up against—how it looks and how it works behind the shadows. Dr Mittal classifies anxiety into three groups on the scale of their intensity. Mild, moderate, and extreme. In the first one, anxiety looks like a mix of emotions that ranges from nervousness and agitation to discomfort and apprehensiveness. Almost everyone in the world experiences mild anxiety. The triggers could be hiccups in relationships, problems at work, bad traffic, or bad grades.

Dr Archita Reddy, a psychotherapist, believes the fear of loneliness, feeling of emptiness, and self-doubt are also stimulants of anxiety. Moderate and extreme anxiety have severe effects as they combine negative emotions such as nervousness, emptiness, discomfort, and self-doubt that require expert intervention. “Moderate and extreme anxiety attacks work like a spring. The more you try to suppress them, they bounce back with equal ferocity,” says Dr Mittal.

However, with the right coping mechanisms, you can easily overpower anxiety in its nascent form. Below are five strategies people can adopt to calm their anxious mind.

But he didn’t imagine that the mirror-talking would one day become a remedy for people suffering from anxiety.


Talk to someone you trust

Opening up to a friend, partner or family is the best way to manage your anxiety. Although it sounds preachy, talking to someone you trust can open doors you didn’t even know existed. How? One word, perspective. Sometimes anxiety blurs the line between the real and the imaginary. Things become magnified. Where there is nothing, one sees an immediate danger. But when you reveal your thoughts to someone, they can give you a perspective on things that you might be missing. “Communication is the most effective way to cope with mild anxiety. It can also work to manage moderate anxiety as it enables you to find a solution,” says Dr Mittal. Who knows? They might share a story of someone who was in the same boat but rose above the disorder by confiding in someone.

Mirror activity

Remember Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, talking to himself in the mirror? That “are you talking to me” mirror-scene, is a testimonial performance of the legendary actor. But he didn’t imagine that the mirror-talking would one day become a remedy for people suffering from anxiety. Dr Reddy believes talking to oneself in the mirror can give people perspectives and ideas to manage their anxiety. “Stand in front of the mirror, talk to yourself. Talk about your likes and dislikes, your dreams, your aspirations, your challenges. Do a conversation you would do with other people. Try to figure out who you are. In the introspection, you can find a safe space in your mind that could help you fight your anxiety,” Dr Reddy explains.

Instead of taking a walk outside, watching a show in a theatre or going for a drive, many people nestle in their bed for hours


Meditation and exercise

When it comes to calming a mind, nothing works better than meditation. For centuries, monks and hermits have practised meditation to attain mindfulness. Now, experts claim it can also help people control their anxieties. A study, conducted by the researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, assessed over 3000 anxiety patients who were advised to meditate. The results revealed the benefits of meditation on anxiety.

While people can practice any form of meditation, Dr Mittal has one in particular that tops the list. “Among various types of meditation, deep breathing is the only proven mechanism that helps to curb anxiety,” he says. Other than deep breathing, he also suggests lightweight workout and aerobic exercises that can help anxiety patients keep their mind healthy and rational.

Do what you don’t want to do

When people are anxious, they often look for a cocoon. Such people are easily overwhelmed by fear or a feeling of helplessness. They often lose the motivation to do anything, when they are under the grip of fear or helplessness. Instead of taking a walk outside, watching a show in a theatre or going for a drive, many people nestle in their bed for hours. In such cases, Dr Reddy advises people to do exactly what they are avoiding. “The idea is to not let anxiety take control over you. Instead, take the reins in your hands. You have to become bigger than your anxiety. So much so that you can stomp it like an ant,” says Dr Reddy.

Keep a journal

Both, Dr Mittal and Dr Reddy believe writing a diary can make people mindful and proactive. “Writing a diary should be a continuous and consistent process. I advise my patients to write one page almost every day,” says Dr Mittal. An important thing to remember, experts advise, is not to read what you have written until after two months. Once you have recorded several pages about your days, fears and desires, go back to the first page and read what you wrote on day one. Dr Reddy believes by doing so, people can recognise their triggers and find a solution to mitigate them.

Like all coping mechanisms, writing a diary is also a one-step-at-a-time strategy to alleviate anxiety. But nothing can be accomplished without discipline. It is the antidote for anxiety.

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