Anxiety is a natural emotional response involving feelings, thoughts, and body sensations. It’s a signal that something might be going on in or around us that poses danger. Anxiety gets us ready to keep ourselves safe by preparing for fight or flight.
When signaling true danger or the need for extra attention, anxiety is an uncomfortable, but short-lived reaction, that occurs in particularly stressful times. However, for some, anxiety may be more persistent and influence their daily life. Sometimes, anxiety even becomes a painful chronic condition that hurts so much that it causes people to hide and lose out on much of the joy in life.
Here are some healthy coping strategies you can use to start to manage anxiety more effectively:
While it sounds basic, attention to your breathing is one of the best strategies for calming down acute anxiety flare ups. Slow, deep breaths have been shown to quickly calm a person. You can slow your heart rate, relax your muscles, and even slow racing thoughts, by putting your attention on your breathing in a purposeful way.
Understand Your Anxiety
Anxiety is strong emotions of fear or nervousness, physical sensations like tightness in the chest, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath, and thoughts about what horrible things could happen. In the midst of intense anxiety or a panic attack, it can feel like you are dying, but remind yourself that what you are feeling is normal as your body prepares for fight or flight. Check in with if this response is needed and if not, work to calm yourself by talking yourself down and breathing.
Learn to Observe and Change Your Thought Patterns
How often are you aware of your own thoughts? Many times are thoughts are so automatic that they occur without much control from our conscious mind. For those experiencing anxiety, many of these thoughts will be negative and frightening, based on worse case scenarios.
Starting to pay attention to the thoughts behind the feelings gives you power. Challenge your thoughts by checking on the realistic likelihood. What are the chances of this really happening on a scale of 1 – 10? What is more likely? Is your level of anxious preparation right for the more likely outcomes?
The more you do this, the more you will retrain your mind to process life differently.
Learn Your Triggers
Once you learn to pay attention to your thoughts and remain calm knowing you are having a natural reaction to what you perceive as a threat, find the trigger. Observe your surroundings to find what activated your panic reaction. If it is an external trigger, and there are other people in the room, notice their reaction to your trigger. Do they seem uneasy or concerned? If it is an internal trigger, take a minute to observe and breath. Notice what parts of your anxiety are really for the present situation and which parts are from the past.
When you identify your triggers, store this information to avoid being blindsided again. You can work on reducing your reactivity by calming yourself each time this trigger occurs.
Ask For Help
If you find you need more help learning to control your anxiety, please feel free to call me for a free consultation. I would be more than happy to discuss treatment options.