Fact: an estimated 40 million Americans suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. Last year I noticed that my anxiety was terribly high and I couldn’t figure out what was causing it. I went on about my days and tried to deal with my anxiety on my own. It seemed to escalate until it began to affect my health. I decided to make a commitment to addressing my anxiety and adopting healthy practices to use whenever I was feeling anxious. In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a few things that have helped me cut down on being anxious.

1. Mindfulness

Psychology Today defines mindfulness as the “active, open attention to the present.” The goal of mindfulness it to keep for brain focused on the present as opposed to worrying about things that spur on anxiety. At first attempt, I was terrible at mindfulness. I would try to engage my brain in something, but it seemed my anxiety was too big to overcome. You have to continue to practice being mindful. Start small; take notice of your body. Feel yourself sitting, standing, walking. Feel the clothes on your back or your feet in your shoes. Make yourself aware of life happening around you. Slowly, mindfulness will kick in for you and will take your attention away from anxiety. Whenever my anxiety kicks into high gear, try to actively focus on what’s happening in the moment. If I’m driving to work, I focus on nature that I see while driving. If I’m home and with nothing to do, I read a new book. Engaging my brain into something that keeps me mindful helps me not to obsess over things I cannot change in that moment. Mindfulness has helped my day to day task run smoother without my anxiety kicking into overdrive.

2. Change your bad habits.

Whenever I get bad news or begin to worry about something I immediately start to bite my nails. I’m so consistent in it that my family has learned to ask me what’s wrong if I start nail biting. For most of us, our habits distract us from what’s really going on. Binge eating, nail biting, excessive exercise, drinking, smoking, and so many other things pose as comfort for us when life gets hectic. It’s  when we take a step back we realize that these things don’t actually solve any problem for us or make our lives better. They simply give us an out in situations that are too difficult to deal with. Learning to curb our bad habits helps us to face anxiety with the determination to overcome whatever issue is making us anxious. Got any bad habits? Challenge yourself to replace it with something that will help anxiety.

3. Prayer

Mindfulness works really well for me during the day, but no so much at night. If I’m not mindful, pun intended, then my anxiety will creep on and on and skyrocket right before I need to sleep. The best way for me to deal with my anxiety at night is prayer. Talking to God and letting him hear my fears allows me to voice them. Saying them outloud gets them out of my head and relieves the weight of the issues. One day I had the realization that my bad habits and anxiety actually reflect my faith and trust level toward God. If I’m worried about my career goals and that sends me into a tailspin anxiety attack, I’m essentially telling God that I don’t trust him. When using prayer as a tool to combat anxiety it’s important to remind yourself of God’s promises for you. Reminding myself that God will in fact grant me the desires of my heart if I honor and trust in Him never fails to calm my fears. Take time to find his promises for you during your quiet time. Write those scriptures down and repeat them to yourself whenever you lose sight of them and anxiety creeps in.

Learning to deal with anxiety is a journey for all of us. As difficult as my anxiety can get, I know that there are others who struggle worse that I. If you read this article and feel that you’ve tried everything to combat your anxiety, don’t give up. There are so many resources available to help you succeed in living anxiety free. Don’t give up hope, we’re rooting for you.