Anxiety is one of the most common reasons individuals decide to start the therapeutic process. Often times, their main priority is understandably to get control of their anxiety as soon as possible. While we work with clients to help them gain insight into the root causes of their anxiety, skill-based approaches help with the immediate and behavioral components of anxiety. Here are 10 of the most common tips we give our clients who are working towards controlling their anxiety.
Remind Yourself that Thoughts are not Facts
Often times we may be reacting to what we believe is true about a situation. Sometimes these beliefs or cognitions are not based in objective reality. Taking a step back and asking yourself if your thought is fact or opinion can help reduce anxious thoughts. I.E. Original Thought: “I’m going to die because my chest hurts.” Facts: “My chest could be hurting because I’m scared, about to get sick, or because something might be wrong. Calming down and checking in with myself after could help me determine the root of the issue.”
Engage in Breathing Exercises
We can’t stress the importance of controlling and easing breath in the midst of anxious feelings. To do so, breath in normally through your nose and exhale for 30 seconds. Repeat as long as it takes to decrease the feelings of panic. Note: you may still be anxious after this but will be able to think clearer to problem solve or use other coping skills.
Schedule Worry Time
if you find that you are ruminating around the clock on things you are worried about, set aside a specific time to let your worried thoughts run rampant. Limit this rumination spree for 5-10 minutes, after which, you no longer allow yourself to dwell on the issue for the rest of the day until your scheduled appointed time the next day.
Keep a Schedule and Routine
Often times when we start feeling overwhelmed and anxious we stop engaging in activities or socializing with people in our lives. The problem with this course of action is it creates the false sense that by focusing only on the anxiety the problem will be solved. Since anxiety is fear of the future unknown, the problem won’t be solved until the moment arrives. Therefore, staying busy reminds you that you can’t do anything about what your anxious about now.
Engage in Self-Care
We get so caught up in life that we forget that we have to be doing things that recharge our batteries. This helps decrease vulnerability factors and allows us to better manage stress and anxiety. This can be as simple as taking a bath while listening to music or taking your dog — or neighbor’s pet — out for a long mindful walk.
Tell People What’s Going On
Speaking to others about our worries helps release pent up anxieties and emotions which can reduce the intensity.
Understand what is in your power to control.
Sometimes we worry about situations that are out of our control or require us to wait on others to do their part. If you can’t make any moves to change a problem ask yourself, “what’s the benefit of me worrying about this now?”
Exercise and Eat Healthy
There’s tons of research that shows the benefit regular exercise and eating healthy has on emotional health. Exercise releases “happy” neurotransmitters that can lift our mood. Healthy guts are getting increasingly linked to healthier emotional functioning.
Prioritize Good Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important factors to decrease stress, depression, and anxiety. If you are having trouble falling asleep, follow the skills in this list to decrease rumination on worries. If you are struggling with sleep for more than a few days, you might want to seek medical advice about possible sleep aids.
Prioritize Your “To-Do” List
Draw a tic-tac-toe chart on a piece of paper. Label the top row “Urgent" and “Non-Urgent” and the Left Columns “Important” and “Non-Important” Respectively. Everything considered urgent needs to be done within 24-48 hours. Everything else can wait. Prioritize starting at Urgent and Important and work your way through the chart until you’ve completed your tasks.
Managing anxiety is all about using as many skills and techniques as you can that are effective and congruent for you. Which of these did you find the most helpful?