Break the vicious cycle by equipping yourself with these ways to cope with anxiety. Keep them handy for whenever you need them!
Anxiety can become a burden, especially if it is something we experience often. Anxiety may be triggered for several reasons, but is going to mean something different for everyone, but in general and for the purpose of this article, anxiety is more commonly known as worry, fear, nervousness, unease, panicky, out of control.
It is usually triggered because we are faced with a physical or psychological threat. This is when we usually start to feel the above mentioned feelings, including physical symptoms too, such as heart palpitations and sweats. Some people experience short bursts of anxiety, while others suffer more long term. Both are equally as valid and should be taken seriously.
In this post, I have detailed some tips to help short term anxiety that pops up on a daily basis to help you ease the chaos in your mind.
These tips are from my own experience, and not to be mistaken for medical advice. Please still seek professional mental health support if you feel you are struggling.
#1 Self awareness
The first and most important step to cope with anxiety, is to take a moment to reflect on exactly what you are feeling, where in your body you are feeling it, what thoughts are going on in your mind and what has triggered the feelings you are experiencing. My favourite way to do this is to write it out into a journal (or even phone notes).
Self enquiry has the power to bring a little perspective to what is going on, allowing you to witness the thoughts exactly as they are – just thoughts, not facts.
This can sometimes be a hard and scary task, but I promise the act of writing can really aid in off loading some of the overwhelming thoughts you have having.
#2 Challenge the thought patterns
Challenge your anxious thought patterns by asking yourself:
- Is the thought necessary or helpful?
- What evidence is there to support this outcome?
- What is the worse case scenario?
- What is the likelihood of the worse case scenario happening? What other outcomes are there?
- Is there a more realistic, positive way to look at the current situation?
- What would I say to a friend who had this worry?
An extra task: list some helpful and empowering beliefs around the scenario and read over them a few times. Keep them handy to refer back to.
#3 Sit in silence
Take some time out of your day (just a few minutes to start with) to sit with yourself.
Remove any distractions. If you are in a work setting for example, excuse yourself and step outside. See if there is a wall, some grass or even your car to sit in! (Something I used to do often lol!)
Close your eyes, focus on your breath and witness your thoughts and the sensations in your body.
The skill of meditation is taking time to become more aware of yourself and your thoughts.
#4 Take a deep breath
I know we hear this one a lot, but our breath is so powerful.
Breathing techniques are probably one of the most powerful ways to cope with anxiety. These are my go to I am feeling anxious, yet I feel they are so underestimated!
There is a lot of science behind the power of breath, but to summarise, when we get stressed or anxious (faced with a threat), to which we have a physiological response, it triggers our sympathetic response, also known as our fight or flight mode. Symptoms will show up differently for everyone, but are commonly known as shallow breathing into the chest, heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, etc.
Deep breathing can be used to engage the autonomic nervous system and send a signal to the brain that we are safe and inturn, calming our anxiety.
One breathing technique I often use is belly breathing.
Below is an extract from my blog: 7 Powerful Breathing Techniques for Anxiety where you can also find other breathing techniques to experiment with!
Breathing into your stomach aka abdominal (or diaphragmatic) breathing is known mainly for its anxiety and stress reducing effects. It is the basis of a lot of meditation breathing, as it can help regulate bodily functions as well as reduce your blood pressure. It helps even and lengthen your breath, as you may be hyperventilating without even realising it!
- Put your hand on your stomach and allow your breath (slowly and gently) to expand your belly. If you’re not used to breathing this way, it may be difficult at first. Don’t force it, just see what you can do at first and build on it.
- When you’re ready, start increasing the length of your inhale, deeply through your nose. Relax your head, neck and shoulders and slowly feel your stomach expand.
- Hold it for a second.
- Slowly exhale, keeping it slow and deep, matching the length of your inhale and drawing in your stomach to release all the air.
- Repeat as many times as you need to.
Tip: Some may find it beneficial to count when doing it. For example, I’ll count steadily from 1 to 5. This helps me to calm and not rush, but to be honest, it also distracts me which is an added bonus to calming my self down or trying to stop my overactive mind when trying to sleep.
Throughout the day, check in with yourself. Put your hand on your chest and on your stomach, and see which is contracting and at what pace. This can help identify how your body is reacting in different situations.
#5 Move your body
Whether it is walking, a yoga class, working out or dancing, any kind of movement practice that brings you calm or joy can be powerful ways to cope with anxiety. Personally, I find moving in anxious/stressful times can help instantly relieve stress and shift stagnant energy!
My personal favourite is yoga and dancing. Yoga combines movement, meditation and breathing which instantly makes me feel calm. Dancing allows some fun and play. I can’t dance, but I love putting on my favourite songs and just singing along unapologetically, to release any tension and shake it off.
If you are in a situation you cannot dance or practice yoga, go outside, breath in the fresh air and focus on your surroundings. Walking can be a great way to evoke your senses to help calm your anxiety, as well as ground you.
I hope this tips come in handy! Let me know if your try any, or if you have any of your own to share. I would love to hear from you!