Anxiety - 5 ways of managing it better
Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but sometimes it can be prolonged and interfere with our day-to-day activities. The feeling can come from fear and result in worry and unease. Anxiety is a survival tool that provides an alerting response, it can be seen as a “Stop. Look. Listen.” This alerting tool is used to warn us of potential dangers. The keyword is potential, which means the dangers can be there but are not yet present. This is where it can get confusing for our minds, as we can be prone to reacting to potential dangers as if they are happening. When we do this, our anxiety can be a problem – as we are using the alert for potential dangers as a cue to feel all the emotion as if the danger was happening. This is when the anxiety can prevent us from doing what we need to do or being so intense that it cripples us to a standstill. This article goes through 5 different ways of managing anxiety, how they can help deal with it and how they can help you live with it. The alerts of danger are necessary, and the better we can manage the alerts the better we can live with anxiety – just as we have learned to live with bad weather.
Tip #1 for Dealing with Anxiety: Pre-rehearsed Conversations
Anxiety can be related to certain areas of our life. Perhaps we have just through some form of loss (job, relationship, loved one) and are feeling uncertain about our path ahead. This could result in natural anxiety. Now although anxiety is a natural response to oncoming danger when it is not dealt with, it can spread. This means when we are in conversation with others around uncertain areas in our lives, we can feel it and it can cause us to close up and potentially avoid those encounters altogether.
In these settings, a pre-rehearsed conversation is an easy way to deal with anxiety. Pre-rehearsed conversation involves talking to yourself about the areas in your life that make you feel anxious. This brings anxiety into our awareness. Now instead of fighting it and removing it, we instead ask ourselves questions about the anxiety-provoking topic and let ourselves come up with natural answers without any added pressure. By writing these answers down we come up with an organic script which gives us prompts to respond when in social settings. Although this does not directly let go of the anxiety, it is a preventative measure as it stops the spread. Allowing us to be open with our peers, colleagues and support network without getting flustered.
For those who suffer social anxiety, it may feel like your mind goes blank when you are in social settings. This can be quite hard, as you can feel like you cannot add any value to any conversation. Pre-rehearsed conversations can also help with that. By creating a list of questions that you would like to be asked, you have a go-to list of questions that your mind can retrieve whenever you feel you are lost for words. Eventually, this process will become more natural and you will have found the strength to not let the anxiety control your behaviours.
Key Points for Pre-Rehearsed Conversations
Try and have the difficult conversations with yourself
How you’re feeling? Why do you think you feel that way? What you are going to try and do about it
Take time to note down the answers, and highlight the answers you are willing to share with others
If you find yourself thinking it is silly, prompt yourself to give it a go and take it from there
Try not to memorise a response, word by word – rather have a few points you can go back to
Tip #2 for Dealing with Anxiety: Breathwork
Anxiety is something that we first feel. It makes us “stop, look and listen”, this can then translate into our thoughts and our bodies. If this anxiety results in us feeling stressed, our bodies begin to release adrenaline and cortisol. Which in turn creates the physical symptoms of anxiety such as; a faster heartbeat and sweating. Notice how we first feel anxiety emotionally before we feel it physically. Is there something we can manually do before it begins to affect us physically? Something that can result in us feeling the anxiety but process it before it alerts the stress hormones. Enter Breathwork.
Breathwork is an age-old tool, it has been with us since the dawn of mankind (as we have all needed to breathe). Eastern schools of thought place great emphasis on the breath. Why? Well, they believe that the breath carries something much deeper than air, our life force. By fine-tuning our breathing, we can breathe our life force all around our physical body. Now you must be thinking; “Lifeforce, is this Star Wars?”. Think about it, when our emotions change, our breathing also changes and then we feel it in our bodies. By changing the pattern of our breathing when we feel anxiety, we may be able to process it better and prevent it from releasing stress hormones. We don’t even need to complicate, simply by taking deeper breaths when we are feeling anxiety we can feel it emotionally and let it pass. That doesn’t mean it’ll go forever, but you would’ve been able to breathe through the anxiety without it affecting your behaviour.
By the nature of us feeling emotions, they are essential parts of ourselves. Therefore, it is up to us how we decide to deal with them. Deep breathing has always aided us in calming our nerves and relaxing. Through breathwork, we can better manage our anxiety and learn to live with it.
Key Points for Breathwork
You can focus on your breath whilst feeling an emotion
Take a deeper breath
It’s okay if your focus shifts, try and bring it back to breath as regularly as you can
There are different breathing techniques to try (Look below)
4-4-4 (Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds)
Be patient, over time you will begin to see how deep breathing can help calm you
Tip #3 for Dealing with Anxiety: Following a Routine
Anxiety can cause us issues in many aspects of life. One area where anxiety may continually rise is in our decision making. “What should I do next?” “Shall I do this or that” “How should I do it?” “Am I even doing what I’m meant to do?” These questions are bound to arise when you’re not exactly sure about what to do, or if you do different things in different orders. This can be anxiety-provoking, as you are never sure of what you want to do – and better yet you can change it whenever you please. Having a routine can help combat decision anxiety and help your mind feel more prepared for the daily activities you wish to do.
Routine helps an individual in a multitude of ways, more specifically it can help alleviate anxiety. Routine allows our bodies to adjust our expectations as we know what is going to happen. This allows our mind to be able to relax and close the door to our imagination (What are we going to do? Etc…). This is key, as once we begin being able to know about what we are going to do and when we don’t add decision making time to our day and we begin to get into whatever we are meant to be doing. Our minds are in the habit of controlling nearly every life event it can, therefore having a routine allows the days to feel repetitive enough that the mind begins to feel it has control due to the predictability. This allows the mind to step away from the chaos and allows calmness to ensue. Additionally, a routine is a way for us to feel prepared and thus prevents stress and anxiety.
Key points to a routine
Do the same things at the same times
Starting and finishing work
Eating (When you can)
Remove as many decisions as possible
What to wear
What to eat
Schedule time for things you enjoy
Time with loved ones
Tip #4 for Dealing with Anxiety: Work with a counsellor or coach
Feeling anxious can be uncomfortable. If it is an issue that has never really gone away, it can feel like you’ll be overrun by anxiety forever. This can be extremely daunting, depressing and darn right annoying. Sometimes, anxiety can be a symptom of a deeper issue that you have experienced in life. This could be a trauma; unresolved fears or even a lack of self-worth. You may even be aware of these deeper issues that persist, but have no idea where to start when you go about processing them. Seeing a counsellor or coach could be of benefit. These are people who are trained in helping individuals overcome and manage these issues.
Seeing a counsellor or coach could appear to be extremely strange at first.
“Talking to a random person about issues you do not even like to talk about? No thanks, I don’t even talk to my family or friends about this.”
This is a perfectly normal response to the idea of therapy, especially when you believe that your anxiety has no chance of fading. Counsellors and coaches, provide a different environment than what your support network can. As they don’t know you, they can provide an environment of non-judgement. In an environment like this, your mind is more willing to open up about the issues that have been bothering you.
The therapist will encourage you to let out all your thoughts, whether they are silly or not. This is the first point of healing, as you are finally able to let out how you have been feeling, and should be able to feel some form of relief. Over time, the therapist can guide you to see the triggers behind these thought patterns and understand the roots of your anxiety. With the hope of helping you build a toolkit to deal with these triggers. The therapist is also able to provide a pillar of support for you to face anxiety-provoking thoughts.
Naturally, as you see yourself dealing with your anxiety your confidence will build and you would’ve found ways to manage or deal with your anxiety.
Key points about finding a counsellor or coach
It’s a process, don’t give up if you don’t find someone you feel comfortable with straight away
Manage your expectations, just because you’re going to therapy doesn’t mean you’ll heal overnight
Trust the process, and try and give it your all every time you go
Tip #5 for Dealing with Anxiety: Limiting the use of substances
Anxiety can be tricky enough to deal with, without adding in all other pressures in life. This means we have to continue to perform our day-to-day activities whilst dealing with the anxiety we may face. If our anxiety doesn’t seem to be improving and begins impacting our competence; we may be faced with difficult questions. Do I use prescribed medication to deal with the persisting anxiety? How do I prevent the anxiety from getting to me? These questions are perfectly normal but at which point do we try to find our solution irrespective of the consequences. Substances like drugs and alcohol are known escapes, and can temporarily provide distance between us and our emotions. Could anxiety be a gateway into an addiction?
It’s always easier to say things that are difficult than do them. When it comes self-work, it can prove more difficult. Awareness is said to be the first step in healing, when we become aware of the issue at hand then we begin to take away its power. The same can be said about anxiety. When we are aware we are feeling anxiety and it is affecting us more deeply; we can take an active step to limit our use of substances.
One of the reasons for limiting our use of substances is because of potential downward spirals. If we are feeling anxious a substance could provide us relief and escape. This could lead to use continually abusing that substance whenever we feel the anxiety is building. Another reason to limit our use of substances is to allow us to fully process what we are going through. When we are dealing with anxiety, the limitation of substances can allow us to embrace the uncomfortable feeling. This will allow for deeper healing, as you are processing the anxiousness by feeling. You have to feel it to heal it.
Key points about limiting our use of substances
Be aware when you are using substances to cope with anxiety
When you feel the need to use a substance, ask yourself are you using the substance recreationally or to escape anxiety?
The limitation is not a punishment; it is done to protect yourself when you are most vulnerable
Anxiety can cause a range of issues that can be infuriating. In the article, we have gone through a few different varieties of anxiety and how they can affect different aspects of our lives. The methods are used to combat those types of anxiety; however, they can also be used to combat more unique forms of anxiety. Contrary to belief, anxiety alone is not an illness. It is everything that comes after that can make us feel down, uneasy and depressed. We have the innate power within us, to manage the alerts of anxiety so they don’t result in a nervous breakdown. As we practice managing anxiety we can learn how to cope with it better and learn how to live with it. If you find yourself wanting to remove anxiety completely, it won’t happen but your attitude to it can shift. This can result in you having a better relationship with anxiety so it does not unsettle you when it does arise.
I’ve never felt anxiety; how can I know if someone is anxious?
Anxiety is something that we all feel, if you haven’t been aware of it affecting your day-to-day it doesn’t mean the emotion is not there. Perhaps, you have been dealing with it without knowing, perhaps you experience it differently. A lot of people, experience it and are unable to talk about it when they are experiencing it. Be patient with those around you, as you can never if someone is deeply affected by it.
Which of these methods could you start practicing? Do you use any already? How do they work for you? Comment below, and share your journey with anxiety
Click here to find out more about Self Love Clinic’s coaching and counselling sessions, for more ways you can be supported on a journey of self-love!