ANXIETY……A word most of us know, because we have experienced it ourselves, or someone we know has experienced it. You may even be experiencing it as you read this blog post. Please know that you are not alone! Anxiety sometimes creates fear. The fear of not knowing how to keep moving forward, the fear of drowning by the anxious feelings that overtake our daily lives, and the fear that others may judge us if they knew we were dealing with anxiety. I am here to tell you that anxiety can be a word and feeling that does not have to cause us fear, because it is possible to manage anxiety in healthy ways, to where it does not leave us feeling stuck in those anxious feelings.
Anxiety can be described as feeling uneasy, apprehensive, or uncertain, which can lead to unrealistic fears and constant worrying. When we are anxious we may notice that our bodies feel more on edge, our breaths may be faster, our palms may become sweaty, our hearts may feel like they are racing, and we might find that we are moving more than normal. Crying could also be accompanied by anxiety, as well as feeling more irritable. It is important to be aware of how our bodies feel when we are anxious, because that helps us develop warning signs and triggers, to catch our anxious feelings early. By catching our anxious feelings early, we are able to avoid our anxiety reaching unhealthy levels, which can lead to possible anxiety attacks.
When anxious feelings arise there are coping and grounding skills that can help you in the moment. Here are few coping and grounding skills that you can try on your own when you begin to feel anxious:
Deep Breathing- Take a deep breath in for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, and then breathe out for 6 seconds. Repeat this as many times needed, until breathing returns to normal.
5,4,3,2,1- This skill uses our 5 senses. Wherever you are, look around and notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation- Find a comfortable place to sit or lay down. You will start focusing on your feet and work your way up to your face. Areas to focus on are feet, calves, thighs, torso, back, shoulders, arms, hands, and face. At each area of focus you will hold tension for 10 seconds, focusing on how your body feels and then releasing the tension. Notice the difference in how your body feels when there is tension and how it feels when there is relaxation.
Challenge Anxious Irrational Thoughts- When an anxious thought comes into your mind, ask yourself is this thought based on facts? How likely is it that thought will come true? Would a family member or friend think this thought was irrational? If this thought comes true, how will it matter in 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, or 5 years?
Take a time out- Take a step away from the situation that is causing you anxiety. During this time out, try to meditate, do yoga, take a walk, talk to someone in your support system, or simply do more deep breathing.
Aside from using coping skills in the moment, there are a few changes we can make to our daily routine that could help minimize anxiety, and help us feel more confident about managing bigger anxious feelings as they arise. Here are few suggestions for helping manage anxiety on a daily basis:
Eat well balanced meals- This might also include limiting caffeine and alcohol.
Get enough sleep- Anxiety can cause our bodies to feel exhausted. When this happens our bodies need to recharge, and the best way to do this is by getting enough sleep to allow our bodies to rest.
Exercise daily- This can simply be getting out and taking a 20 minute walk each day.
Accept that we are not able to have control in all situations- If we spend time worrying about the things we cannot change, we allow those things to take up all our time and energy, leaving very little time and energy to change the things we can control.
Maintain a positive attitude- Maintaining a positive attitude allows us to approach distressing situations with a positive outlook, which in turn can help us not fall deep into anxiety, and can help us come up with possible solutions to continue moving forward.
Don’t be afraid to laugh- Humor can be the best medicine!
Keep a good support system- Surrounding ourselves with people who care about us, and who want to build us up in a positive way is so important.
I hope some of these skills and suggestions can help you feel more confident in managing anxiety when it happens. Managing anxiety is something that has to be worked on daily, and it is a part of people’s life journey. Be patient with yourself. You are capable, and you are not alone!