Coping Methods for Anxiety
There are a number of specific actions you can take directly to stop feeling anxious and manage your anxiety.
Just as all people have similarities and differences this also applies to coping with and managing anxiety. Some will work better for you than others at different times and in different situations. Experiment, be creative and find the coping methods that work for you best.
Two impactful coping and managing methods you can do is to:
Accept Your Anxiety
Possibly not something you want to hear or feel like doing initially. First impressions might be – “I want to get rid of it, not accept it!!!”
This actually involves not fighting the anxiety, pain and low mood. Accepting is not about about giving up or giving in to the feelings of anxiety. Rather it’s about not struggling and continuing to feed the fear of anxiety.
Importantly you don’t want to lose yourself in the Anxiety. This requires you to maintain your sense of self as being seperate from the experience.
You are enabling yourself to observe what you are feeling but not lose your sense of self to the experience.
When we can face our anxiety, experience the anxious feeling but not be the anxious feeling then it dissipates and loses its grip on us. In part we need to be able to casually recognise and acknowledge it is there, but not dwell on it to the exclusion of everything else around us.
Anxiety is like an unwelcome visitor to the front door. We don’t have to let them in but nor do we have to engage and struggle with them justifyinging why. We simplyclose the door.
Tame your Anxiety
Imagine your anxiety is a nervous wild animal that is following you around. It might be a wolf, dog, tiger, cat or any other animal else that you feel represents your anxiety.
When its worried and feels insecure it nips and scratches you. It’s doing this because its frightened and lashes out randomly. If you can remain calm and accepting of the animal it will eventually calm down too and not feel the need to attack. Your anxiety is what feeds the anxious animal, making it bigger, more anxious and attacking.
As you learn to accept and be compassionate toward the animal it learns to trust you and is calmed. As it does so it no longer attacks you rather is becomes a loyal a guardian following at your side. Anxiety is reduced as is any perceived threat. Calm and balance are achieved.
If you are are threatened and feel anxious your guardian remains a protective force for you.
As you learn to accept and tame your anxiety you can also use try these additional coping methods.
Body Focus and Awareness
Centre Yourself – Maintain a straight posture that is on balance. Be aware of your centre, typically this is in the centre of your body just below the height of the navel. If stood or sat on a chair have both feet flat and pressed into the ground.
Brings your attention to yourself helping you to feel more grounded and solid. Anchors you so that you can maintain your sense of self
Deep Breathing – breath in slowly and deeply, rather than opening the chest allow the belly to expand outwards. Follow the breath down and then back up as you gently and slowly exhale. Counting as you breathe out and in can also help, maintaining a comfortable rhythm.
This is calming and helps reduce the anxiety. The deep breathing brings the carbon dioxide levels back up to a natural balance. Exhaling longer than inhaling triggers the parasympathetic response of the nervous system promoting relaxation
Scanning – Scan your body with your attention starting with the feet up to the crown of your head. You are using your awareness to detect any muscular tension. If you find tension that is due to your posture, then change how you are sitting or standing to relieve the tightness. When it is muscular tension focus on the area in conjunction with your deep breathing to help relax the muscles.
Enables physical relaxation of over tight muscles so reducing the physical symptoms of tension that anxiety brings on.
Walk – Get up and walk. If you can go to place where there is green ie a garden, park or country side. Beside water can also be calming a river, lake or the sea.
Walking can help with moving away from a place associated with anxiety. As our surroundings change this helps our our mood change.
Distraction – tapping or rubbing parts of the body. Having an elastic band around the wrist that you can flick to assist with interrupting ruminating thoughts. Squeezing a rubber ball.
Ruminating thoughts hold our attention and are exhausting. By doing something else that requires our attention takes our focus away from those painful thoughts.
Exercise – Any physical exertion is beneficial especially one that is done with other people around. This could be in a gym, football, running, martial arts.
Produces naturally occurring feel good hormones is our brain such as dopamine. Uses up adrenaline that is pumped into the body that can otherwise make us feel on edge and produce discomfort. Good for us in so many ways.
Changing how you feel
Observing Self – Maintain awareness of your thinking. When caught up in your day dreams bring yourself back to observing them. This can also be applied to any feelings of anxiety or anger.
Develops the ability to separate out our non rational thoughts triggered by anxiety from our rational here and now thoughts. The anxious thoughts can be observed as if from a distance so they don’t impact so strongly on us.
Share your feelings – talk to friends and family about how you are feeling. Ask if you can contact them if you need to by phone, email, txt etc
Being able to put your anxiety into words in a calm supportive way helps decapsulate the over responsive emotional stimulus.
Keep a Journal – write down your concerns and worries. Include the actual outcomes not just what was imagined . Also note when good pleasant things happen.
This is a creative exercise that helps explore the anxiety to bring about insights into feelings, thoughts and behaviours. It highlights patterns and changes over time making it a useful reference aid.
Listening to Music – playing music that you find relaxing and inspirational. This can be on the go or sitting somewhere quiet.
Music can help relax and change your mood. It is useful for shielding against loud or intrusive situations.
Create an Affirmation – Write down a positive narrative that is supportive that you can say out aloud or quietly to yourself. State your attributes that will get you through difficult times
These crafted messages to self, highlight the qualities that we want to maintain and aspire to, they encourage whilst bringing a calming effect.
Anxiety – impacts, origins and self-support: Anxiety Counselling Southampton
How counselling helps overcome anxiety: Overcoming the Anxiety of Being Anxious
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