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Managing Anxiety

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Anxiety is a normal and healthy emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. However, when anxiety becomes chronic or overwhelming, it can have negative effects on physical and mental health.


Excessive and persistent anxiety can disrupt cognitive function and disturb sleep. It can manifest in physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, stomach upset, and high blood pressure.


Socially, anxiety can strain relationships and cause conflicts with others. It can make us irritable or overly sensitive, and inhibit effective communication.


Mental health and martial arts in Raleigh
Photo by Jack Lucas Smith on Unsplash

Let's look at some ways we can manage and reduce anxiety, so we can can experience a greater sense of health and well-being, and can enjoy improved relationships and overall quality of life.

Stop Worrying and Start Doing

Looking back at early 2020, I remember the week that I realized the magnitude of the COVID pandemic, and the effect it was likely to have on my business and family.


For a few days, I was overcome with thoughts about an imagined future. At the time, I didn't see how my gym could survive what was coming, and I felt paralyzed by anxiety and stress.


Eventually, I ended up having moments of clarity when I realized that there are some things I can control, and others that I can't. So the best thing to do in a time of crisis is to accept reality, and get to work on the areas where it's possible to make a difference.


In other words, stop worrying and start doing. Here are some strategies that may be helpful when faced with anxiety-inducing circumstances:

  • Identify the sources of anxiety: By identifying the sources of anxiety, you can better understand what is causing your anxiety and can take steps to address these underlying issues. This might involve addressing conflicts in relationships, dealing with work-related stress, or finding ways to manage financial concerns.

  • Develop a plan to address the sources of anxiety: Once the sources of anxiety have been identified, you can develop a plan to address these issues. This might involve setting goals and taking concrete steps to achieve these goals, such as setting aside time to deal with a difficult relationship or finding ways to reduce financial stress.

  • Seek support: Anxiety can often be eased by reaching out to others for support, or just talking through your issues.

  • Prioritize self-care: Taking care of oneself is an important part of managing anxiety. This might involve making time for activities that are relaxing and enjoyable, such as exercise or hobbies, or taking steps to ensure that basic needs, such as sleep and nutrition, are met.

  • Seek professional help: If anxiety is severe or persistent, it may be helpful to seek the assistance of a mental health professional. A therapist or counselor can provide tools and support needed to effectively manage anxiety and improve overall well-being.


Mindfulness Meditation


Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation in which an individual focuses their attention on the present moment, without judgment. This practice has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, as it can help us to become more aware and to let go of negative or anxious thoughts.


During mindfulness meditation, we typically focus on breath or on a specific word or phrase, known as a mantra. This helps to calm the mind and bring the focus to the present moment. As we become more adept at mindfulness meditation, we may be able to notice when our minds are becoming overly focused on negative or anxious thoughts, and we can then redirect our attention to the present moment.


One of the key ways in which mindfulness meditation helps with anxiety is by teaching us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings. By becoming more aware of our internal experience, we can learn to notice when we are becoming anxious and can then take steps to address the underlying cause of anxiety. This can help to prevent anxiety from escalating and becoming more intense.


Another way in which mindfulness meditation can help with anxiety is by teaching us to let go of negative or anxious thoughts. During mindfulness meditation, we learn to observe thoughts and feelings without judgment, and to allow them to pass by without becoming too attached to them. This can help us to break the cycle of negative thinking that is often associated with anxiety.


With practice, we can use mindfulness meditation to give ourselves a break from negative thought patterns in nearly any circumstance.




A Martial Arts Practice Helps


A martial arts practice can be an effective tool for managing anxiety. Through the discipline, physical activity, and focus required by martial arts, we can learn to regulate our stress response and to find a sense of calm and well-being.


Broadly speaking, exercise has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and improving mood. By engaging in regular physical activity, we can release tension and reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat and stomach discomfort. Martial arts involve a range of movements and techniques, which can provide a particularly stimulating and engaging form of physical activity.


Our martial arts practice also teaches us discipline and focus. In order to excel in martial arts, we must learn to focus our attention and to stay present in the moment (mindfulness!). This focus helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings, and to let go of negative or anxious thoughts. By learning to focus our attention and to stay present in the moment, we can develop the ability to regulate stress responses and find a sense of calm and well-being.


Additionally, our training can bring a sense of community and social support. Through training with others and learning from instructors, individuals can form connections and relationships that can provide emotional support and encouragement. This social support can be particularly important for individuals with anxiety, who may be prone to feelings of isolation and loneliness. By joining a martial arts class, we can find a sense of connection and belonging.

 

Notice that all of these solutions require some measure of proactivity. When anxiety and stress enter our lives, we can either allow ourselves be taken over by these emotions, or we can take steps to improve our life quality.

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