Living with anxiety isn’t easy by any means. When anxious feelings increase to new levels, you may unwittingly do things that fuel them. You may get so carried away hyper-focusing on “what-if” future scenarios that you can’t think straight.
Perhaps, you have tried to calm yourself. You may have learned that holding your breath during anxious periods only makes things worse. So you’ve begun practicing deep breathing techniques that help your body relax.
It has brought some relief. But all too often, you still judge and bash yourself for not being able to control your anxiety better. You feel stuck – defeated.
Aside from deep breathing, what other strategies can you use to empower yourself when your anxiety just doesn’t want to leave you alone?
Things you can think:
- “It’s okay that I’m feeling anxious.”
Accept your anxiety. Remember that it’s just a feeling, an emotional reaction to a trigger. Denying it or trying to get rid of it immediately only enforces the idea in your mind that you can’t tolerate the feeling. That alone can make it harder to deal with. Of course, accepting your anxiety doesn’t mean you have to like it, but acceptance will give you the power to tolerate it.
- “My anxious feelings will pass.”
Feelings come, and feelings go, even anxious ones. There’s simply that – feelings, generated by your mind. They can’t physically hurt you. So, the best thing to do is wait them out, even if it may take longer than you wish. Simply letting them pass keeps you from reacting unwisely.
- “My anxious thoughts are not reality.”
Most likely, any situation that causes you anxiety is, in reality, not a catastrophe, though you may think so. You may feel like you’re going to die, but you must remember your anxiety is just playing tricks on you. Ask yourself: Is what I fear really likely to happen? If what I worry about does happen, what would be so bad about it? Challenging your perception will empower you to direct your thoughts.
Things you can do:
- Mind the moment.
Anxiety scrambles your mind. It’s important to bring your focus back to your thinking. Meditation, perhaps even with an audio guide, can help you regain focus and bring down your adrenaline levels. At times, though, your anxiety levels may be so high that it helps to use a cold pack to bring your thoughts back to the present. Put it on the back of your neck and leave it there until it feels warm. Cold increases the oxygen in your blood and enables you to think clearly.
- Accomplish something.
Be productive and cross some of the things off your to-do list. Focusing on a productive task gives your brain and body a break from stress. It will empower you by giving you a measure of control over your life and emotions, leaving you feeling accomplished and capable.
Exercise is great for reducing anxiety and stress. But that doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym every time you feel anxious. You could do much simpler things, like cleaning your house, playing with your pet, dancing around to music, or whatever you enjoy doing that gets you moving. A long walk, for example, can help you not only get fresh air and exercise, it can clear your mind, too
Keeping a private journal about things that bother you can be therapeutic. Writing down your worries gets them out of your head and onto paper, where it’s easier to constructively address them. Plus, writing about accomplishments empowers you to focus on positive things. Finally, making a list of what you need to do and setting priorities enables you to reach goals.
If you feel your anxiety is dominating your thoughts, and you would like help to implement these or other strategies to reduce your anxiety, please contact me.