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Young attractive and sad black African American woman sitting depressed at home

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The word ‘anxiety’ is so loosely tossed around. But what does it mean? While there is a fine line between feeling anxious and having anxiety, it is a very real feeling that we oftentimes mislabel as nerves, fear or shyness. Whether you’re about to do a big presentation at work or you’re walking into a party, where you may not know a single soul, follow these six tips to coping with generalized anxiety disorder that might help put your mind, body and spirit at ease.

Focus On What You Can Change or Control

Those who live with generalized anxiety disorder suffer from the persistent or excessive worry about everyday activities. Feeling out of control in any situation is a feeling of helplessness, fear and worry balled into one lump in your throat that makes you feel as though you can’t breathe. An emotional coping strategy for anxiety is not to worry about the things that have already occurred and shifting all of your energy to the things that you are able to prevent or change. For example, you cannot control a company’s decision to hire you — but you can control your drive, the way you respond and fostering the relationship with HR to be considered for future positions. See what I just did there?

Stop and Breathe

As young Black women, we always feel the need to be on-the-go. From meetings to happy hour with the girls to staying up late to turn in that assignment, when do we really have time for ourselves? I’ll tell you when — when you allow it. Mindfulness isn’t just used when you’re trying to be careful of what you’re saying to other people; it’s practicing self-awareness of the alignment of your mind, body and spirit. 

When you’re walking home from a cold winter night at work, practice looking up at the stars and taking in deep breaths of cold air in through your nose and out through your mouth. Have to be home all day? No worries, light a candle if available to you (lavender or eucalyptus to relieve stress and tension) and fill the room with silence. Take in a deep breath that fills your lungs to its capacity and exhale slowly as you feel all of the tension and negative energy leaving your body. I just took you through a guided meditation — you’re welcome.

Engage In Less-Anxiety Provoking Activities

If you’re in a high-functioning or faster paced environment such as work, a party or a crowded mall, this may be a bit difficult but not impossible. When you feel an anxiety attack coming on (not to be confused with a panic attack), try distracting yourself or turning your attention to something that doesn’t make your lungs want to burst into flames. For my chocolate lovers out there, dark chocolate increases levels of serotonin and contains stress-reducing antioxidants. If you don’t like chocolate, try investing in a white noise app to listen to a rainforest or waves crashing during your lunch break or in the background of your office. Activities to do in high functioning environments can also include adult coloring books, going for a walk or even doing a couple of desk-side stretches and letting out a deep yawn.

If you’re at home and you’d like to steer your anxiety, do a quick Google search of at-home yoga techniques or exercise routines. You can also try drinking lavender or green tea, taking a shower or cleaning the house to some spa-like music.

Limit Alcohol, Drugs, or Caffeine-Based Products Intake

Have you met my friend Liquid Courage? Everybody loves him, but he can be a bit dangerous once he gets to know you, your weakness, and your triggers. When you’re at the company holiday party or the annual ERG group mixer, trust me when I say that you don’t need four glasses of Chardonnay to put your mind at ease before speaking to the head of the company. In fact, you’re making it worse. 

As opposed to dark chocolate, alcoholic beverages can steer the course of the serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can cause your anxiety to be worse once you’ve come down from your drinks. While alcohol can cause a temporarily pleasant shift in your mood and you feel completely immune by any type of anxiety or anxiety-based symptoms, do not use alcohol, drugs or any caffeine to overcompensate, create falsehoods of confidence or overcome your inhibitions.

Learn What Triggers Your Anxiety

Maybe you’re not ready to go on a date yet because you’re still uneasy from the last one who stood you up. It’s possible that you’re afraid of messing up so you don’t like giving public presentations and the mere thought makes you nauseous and weak at the knees. Maybe you don’t want to go to that party because you’re not a fan of being in large crowds of people. All of this is okay and understandable because trauma is subjective – a baby losing its pacifier for the first time can be just as traumatic as your first heartbreak. Learning your triggers are an important step in coping because you can better analyze which situations are best to put yourself in, how to maneuver and how to manage your fears and expectations for further reference.

Take it easy sis and remember these steps the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by life.

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