As mentioned in the blog post yesterday, I have lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember. Over the years, though, I have learned various ways to manage it. This blog post will discuss some of my methods as well as some tips by other writers.
I had an amazing professor who shared with me one of my favorite ways to manage an anxiety attack. It takes some practice, at first, but it works…have faith. It is called grounding. If I am sitting down, I will plant my feet firmly into the floor and hands on my lap. Then, I will have the following conversation with myself, all the while making sure to slow my breathing down…in and out (I am using my current situation as an example):
“Today is Wednesday, March 2, 2016 and I am sitting here in my livinging room typing on my laptop. My feet are firmly planted on the floor and my hands are resting upon the laptop. I am safe.I am okay.”
I will continue this conversation, maybe adding a few new observations as I work on calming myself. Calmly remind yourself that you are okay and that you are not dying; this will pass. I have successfully used this many times and have helped others use it.
When feeling anxious, the first step is to slow your breathing down. This is because when we are feeling anxious, we begin breathing heavily and our heart rate increases. This, in turn, causes us to become flush in the cheeks. I breathe in slowly, counting four seconds, and then breathe out, counting four seconds. This helps our breathing and heart rate to slow down and, in the process, we begin to feel a little calmer.
In her PsychCentral.com blog, Margarita Tartakovsky, shares several ways to reduce anxiety (http://psychcentral.com/lib/9-ways-to-reduce-anxiety-right-here-right-now/). The first one is the breathing I discussed in the previous paragraphs. The second way is to accept reality…you are feeling anxious. “Anxiety is just a feeling,” Tartakovsky explains, it is an emotional reaction to something. Accept that you are feeling anxious…avoid judging yourself harshly because of it. By denying it or trying to push it away, you are making it worse.
Another method, suggested by Tartakovsky, is to question the anxious thoughts we are having. When we are anxious, our minds race and come up with all kinds of wild scenarios of what could go wrong. These thoughts only worsen our anxiety.
Instead, remind yourself that the anxious feelings are just thoughts…they are not reality. Be realistic and talk to yourself as you would a friend in the same situation. For example, I have a fear of public speaking and my anxiety goes through the roof when I have to speak in front of people. I have to calm my thoughts by reassuring myself that, “no, you are not going to die, Susan. You can do this. You have done it before and it did not kill you. You survived and did a great job.” Also, prior to speaking I reassure myself that the worst case scenario is that I mess up. I’ve messed up before and I’ve seen others make mistakes. We keep going and it is forgotten.
Some questions we can ask ourselves when challenging our anxious thoughts include (Tartovsky):
- Is this worry realistic?
- Is this really likely to happen?
- If the worse possible outcome happens, what would be so bad about that?
- Could I handle that?
- What might I do?
- Is this really true or does it just seem that way?
- What might I do to prepare for whatever may happen?
Another great method is using positive self-talk (Tartovsky). As mentioned earlier, anxiety can produce a lot of negative thoughts and it only worsens the anxiety. Instead, tell yourself positive self affirmations. For example, “this anxiety feels bad, but I can use strategies to manage it.”
Finally, focus your attention on an activity that will help you to re-focus your attention. What about a movie? Drawing, painting, or writing? What is something you would be doing if you weren’t feeling anxious (Tartovsky)?
The important thing is to avoid sitting around and obsessing about your anxious feelings. This will only make your anxiety worse.
What are some ways you have managed your anxiety?