It’s no mystery to me why anxiety is one of the most common complaints I hear from people when they decide to come in for therapy. Simply put, we live in an extremely stressful culture in which we are expected to juggle work, family, finances, relationships, AND do all of these things well on less than enough sleep. No wonder many of us feel tense, irritable, and anxious with so many things to worry about. Does this sound like you?
Anxiety can become a problem when the worry doesn’t stop and we are constantly in a state of fight or flight. When anxiety sticks around for prolonged periods of time, we may begin to experience physical effects such as a weakened immune system, chronic illness and gastrointestinal problems http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2008/July/Anxiety_and_physical_illness. If you are struggling with anxiety, then you also know how frustrating it can be psychologically when you are experiencing a cascade of thoughts that won’t go away.
So how do we manage anxiety, especially during times of high stress? The first thing to remember is that we can’t eliminate stressful situations from our lives (i.e. the holidays, our jobs), but we can learn to increase our tolerance and cope better. If you’re tired of letting anxiety rule your life, check out the tips below:
Step 1: Mindfulness-in order to make changes, you must be aware of what is going on for you in your mind and body. Being in the present moment reduces worry by allowing yourself to just be in the moment without thinking about the past or future. Use the following mindfulness tips:
- Mindful deep breathing. When we exhale our nervous system is reset. Often when we are in a state of anxiety we are only taking short and shallow breaths. Notice what your breathing is like. What happens when you take a long inhale followed by a long exhale? Most people find themselves feeling more relaxed and centered.
- One thing mindfully. How often do you find yourself driving and thinking about 10 different things? It’s only when you miss your exit that you realize you weren’t paying attention! Practice doing only one thing at a time. If you’re eating, eat. If you’re driving, drive. When we are present in the moment we are likely to do a better job and not worry so much.
- Imagery. Maybe you can’t have that 1 hour lunch break but you can create a 1 minute mini-vacation. Use visualization to picture yourself in a calming place, this is a great exercise to try before bed or before a meeting.
- Container: For pesky thoughts that won’t go away, practice putting them in a sealed container for the time being. Notice what happens when you do this. Does the anxiety feel different?
Step 2: Thoughts-often our thoughts are what drive our anxiety. If we can shift them we might feel differently
- Recognize ANTs- Automatic negative thoughts. These are very programed and you should be able to identify them because they come up often causing anxiety (and depression). Recognize that THESE AREN’T REAL!
- Stop overthinking. We tend to think and think and think. Try to turn your attention away from your thoughts with something distracting, or notice what’s happening in your body. When we turn our attention away from our worry thoughts and rumination, they lose power.
- Thought stopping. When you notice yourself stuck in self-limiting or self-defeating thoughts repeating over and over again, practice saying STOP. Then remind yourself of all the better things you could be thinking about.
Step 3: Relaxation-self-care is essential in reducing anxiety. Identify things that help you relax (exercise, hot shower, massage, reading, T.V.). Make time for one relaxing activity a day.
For more questions, or to learn more about treatment for anxiety please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org