Anxiety is something everyone experiences at times and can be a very natural reaction in certain situations………….if we stand too close to the edge of something when we’re up high, that innate desire to keep ourselves safe will naturally kick in and so it should!
Problems with anxiety arise when we experience it in unnecessary situations, in a situation where we’re not in danger or under threat but our mind, for some reason, still considers it to be dangerous and those uncomfortable feelings of anxiety creep in. So it’s really important to have some coping mechanisms up our sleeve to deal with those moments.
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need me to tell you what anxiety feels like, you’ll know you struggle with it and you may even know what your triggers are……..if you’ve not figured them out yet, that’s a great place to start, identify the thought, the environment or perhaps the behaviour that happens immediately before you experience uncomfortable feelings. Understanding your triggers allows you to put strategies in places to deal with them: for example, if caffeine or alcohol proves to increase anxiety, as it does for many, look at cutting them out or at least reducing your intake. If conflict triggers anxiety you can get some help to better manage those situations, or if social situations are a trigger perhaps some work on confidence can make them more manageable for you in the longer term. So you can see how understanding your triggers can be a really helpful starting point.
So while you get to work on that, keeping a record perhaps of what goes on immediately before an anxiety attack, lets look at 3 simple things you can do, in the moment to calm yourself. I use all sorts of techniques and coping strategies with my clients but I’m focusing on 3 specific ones here and it’s all about finding what works best for you: we’re all different, so you may find that one resonates with you more than another or you can find all 3 helpful, so give them a try and I’d love to hear how you get on too!
I’ve created this useful pneumonic for my clients using that powerful word FOCUS. It can really help you to manage those feelings of anxiety more easily.
This is a really simple one because it’s something we do all the time and all it requires is a simple change in rhythm to calm feelings of anxiety. It’s important to use this one as soon as you feel any uncomfortable feelings coming on and ideally to practice it everyday, whether you’re feeling anxious or not. There are lots of different breathing techniques to choose from but I find that Box Breathing is one of the easiest to use with anxiety.
Box breathing, sometimes known as four-square breathing, simple involves:
Breathing in to the count of 4
Holding at the top for the count of 4
Breathing out to the count of four
Holding again at the bottom for the count of 4
There is a lot of research around the benefits of this, along with many other breathing techniques and when practised regularly they can help us to feel calmer throughout the day…….what’s not to like! So establishing a practise of breathing in this way, for several minutes a day, can really have benefits on many levels.
3. Challenge your thoughts!
This is a favourite one of mine and anyone who’s worked with me has likely heard me talk about it! Just because you think something doesn’t mean it’s true! And that is why it’s so important we challenge our thoughts rather than blindly accepting them as truth.
For example, I can get up in the morning and think ‘today’s going to be a rubbish day’ but just because I think it , it doesn’t mean it will be. So by challenging that thought with ‘says who?’ or ‘when did you decide that?’, we can learn to look at facts rather than the stories we often write for ourselves!
Anxiety often comes from the way we think, so by learning to challenge those thoughts and by choosing to rely on facts rather than ‘fiction’, we can gain more control of the way we fell and in turn, the way we behave.
So I’ll leave those thoughts with you and if you have any questions about coping with anxiety, please feel free to get in touch.