Anxiety is a natural dialogue between our mind and body. It’s a red flag that something might be going on in our surroundings that requires our attention.
For most of us, anxiety is an uncomfortable but fleeting feeling that pops up on occasion during particularly stressful times. For some, anxiety may be more present and color more of their daily life. And for still others, anxiety is a constant torture; a nightmare they can’t awaken from.
Depending on your level of anxiety, there are some healthy coping strategies you can use to manage it. Here are four I recommend:
Mind Your Mind
How often are you aware of your own thoughts? Our thoughts tend to bubble up from our subconscious without much control from our conscious mind. For those experiencing anxiety, many of these thoughts will be negative and frightening, although the majority will not be based in reality.
Start to pay attention to the thoughts behind the feelings. Instead of thinking the worst will happen, challenge the thought. What is the realistic likelihood the worst will happen on a scale of 1 – 10?
The more you do this, the more you will retrain your mind to process life differently. A simple way to practice is to set a timer for two minutes and just sit and notice your thoughts. Just let them pass through like they’re on a conveyor belt. Don’t judge them (thinking, “that was a stupid thought” isn’t helpful).
Remind Yourself What Anxiety Is
Beyond frightful emotions, anxiety often comes with physical sensations like tightness in the chest, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. In other words, it can feel like you are dying.
But you’re not.
Of course, always make sure you’re getting regular physical checkups. If you’ve been deemed in good health, odds are the things you’re feeling are physical manifestations of anxiety.
You are having a physical response to an irrational fear or thought. Remind yourself of that ancient dialogue your mind and body are having and know that, in reality, you are okay.
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 threat. Observe your surroundings to find the potential trigger that activated your reaction. If there are other people in the room, notice their reaction to your trigger. Do they seem uneasy or concerned in the least? Chances are they don’t because the threat is not real. Store this information away so eventually your subconscious mind will stop thinking of the trigger as a threat.
Slow, deep breaths have been shown to instantly calm a person. Your heart rate will slow, your muscles will relax, your entire body will return to a normal state of being. Don’t underestimate the power of just taking a moment to breathe.
If you’re having a tough go managing your anxiety and would like to explore how counseling might be helpful, feel free to reach out to me at 919-891-0525 today for a free, 15-minute consultation. I would be happy to explore how I may be able to help you. If we are a good fit, appointments may be scheduled for my Wake Forest counseling office or online.