September 6th, 2017
Margarita Miseros, M.Ed. candidate, Psychosocial Consultant
A busy week at work. A loaded school semester. Decisions to make. Feeling stuck. Wishing we had more time in the day. How will I manage? What if I fail? What if things don’t work out? Worries on top of worries on top of worries.
These circumstances may lead some of us to experience anxiety.
For the rest of us, anxiety may simply be what feels like a constant, unrelenting experience.
We all feel anxiety. Well, a great majority of us do. And to a certain extent, it’s normal. However, when it leaves us feeling exhausted, out of control, paralyzed, and wanting to hide away from the world for the rest of our days, it is time to find different ways of coping with and quieting the anxiety.
Anxiety is an emotion that is often reactive to our thought processes.
Here are some things you can do to better cope with your anxiety:
Identify your negative thoughts:
Take some time to reflect on the thoughts you have that lead you to feeling anxious.
Negative thinking patterns, like all-or-nothing thinking, personalizing in which we blame ourselves when bad things happen, and catastrophizing in which we predict the worst-case situation, all lead to feelings of anxiety. Although it may be quite clear that these ways of thinking are irrational, identifying our own negative thinking patterns can be quite challenging.
Challenge your negative thoughts:
Once you have identified your negative thoughts, it is time to challenge them. Are your negative thoughts a fact or an opinion? Put your negative predictions to the test, evaluate in what way these thoughts are benefiting you (if they are at all), and analyze what the probability is of these thoughts actually realizing themselves. Some questions to ask yourself when challenging your thoughts are: Am I being realistic? What is the probability that this will happen? What is the worst-case situation? What can I do to prepare for this? What are facts supporting my negative thoughts?
Adopt a more realistic perspective:
Now that you have identified and challenged your negative thoughts, it is time to replace them with a more positive and realistic idea. What is an alternative perspective that a stranger might have? What would I say to a friend if they were having the same thoughts? Is my reaction proportionate to the actual event at hand?
Be in the moment:
We are all consistently in the past or future. “Why did I say that?” or “What will I do if this happens?” Make an effort to be fully present and in the moment. Being in the present brings with it a feeling of peace. The present moment is the only thing that exists. To help bring yourself into the present moment, notice your breath, the sounds around you, the feeling in your arms and feet, and the smells around you. Can you notice the feeling of your socks against your feet?
Being present will help bring you peace of mind, and clarity to make decisions.
Practice breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing, or relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, to create a feeling of relaxation in your body.
Mindfulness helps us become more aware of our own body and environment. It does not redirect us or change who we already are. Instead, it helps us focus on the present and what is happening at the very moment. Mindfulness means maintaining awareness of the present moment in a judgment-free manner. We pay attention to our current state, thoughts, and feelings without judging or diving into the story behind them. Meditation and mindfulness are great practices with benefits for both your body and mind.
Imagery can be used to ground and help an individual feel secure. It can be used as a type of escape by using the mind to travel to a safer place where worries and anxieties are kept at bay. For example, you can create a mental image of a place that represents safety to you, such as a garden, a beach, or a special room. You can travel to this place in your mind’s eye when you feel you need a break and need to regain some energy and grounding.
Exercise! Exercise is a great way to reduce feelings of anxiety. Get out and get moving! Go for a walk or go for a run… as long as you get outdoors and are doing something active!
Learn about anxiety:
Finally, educate yourself! The more you learn about anxiety, the more tools you will have in your toolbox to help you manage and overcome it! The more understanding you have about the problem, the better equipped you will be to tackle it.
Please note, these tools may be quite challenging to apply and are not meant to cure anxiety on their own. A therapist is able to guide you through these techniques to ensure you are getting the most out of them and will provide you with a personalized treatment that will best meet your needs.