Coping with Anxiety
Anxiety happens to everyone. It can occur in new situations, testing or assessments, performance evaluations, competition and even asking something of another. Some may continue to feel anxious even after the nerve-wracking activity has ended. It can manifest as a “gut feeling” or as physical symptoms, such as sweating and rapid heartbeat.
It is important to have techniques available which will allow you to cope with your anxiety. Coping techniques can help soothe anxiety mentally and physically by training your mind and relaxing your body. A few techniques include:
- Deep breathing. When feeling anxious, sit up straight for a few minutes (if possible) and close your eyes. This will help you center yourself. By sitting tall you can feel your breath working through your upper body. Take deep, long breaths in through your nose, hold the breath for a moment and then slowly exhale through your nose. You may even want to count to five as you breathe in and out. Repeat several times to reduce your anxiety.
- Relaxation techniques. Various techniques are available for mind and muscle relaxation. Sit or lie quietly in a comfortable position and close your eyes. For muscle relaxation, you may want to release tension from your body by focusing on individual areas of your body and creating tension in those areas and then releasing it after a few seconds. Once your muscles are relaxed, you may want to continue into a guided imagery where you can imagine yourself in a peaceful place.
- Practice positive thinking. Whenever you catch yourself full of worry or having ruminating thoughts, you need to stop yourself. You then need to find ways to re-frame your thoughts into positive or less negative thoughts. For example, “I hate meeting new people. I can’t believe I have to go to this stupid work event” can be reframed to “Meeting new people is difficult but the event is only an hour long. I know I’ll make it through.”
- Counting / Adding. Counting can be a useful activity to combat anxious thoughts because it changes your mindset in the moment. When you feel overwhelmed, try to count backward from 1,000 or start at 1 and add 7 to each new number. Counting and adding pulls your mind out of an emotional state and into a logical state where you are solving a problem and must focus on the logistics.
These techniques can work individually, but they can also work together to create better outcomes. These activities should be practiced so that you are comfortable with them and can use them whenever anxiety is present.
If you feel that you are still combating anxiety, don’t just suffer on your own. Rule out any physical causes, then find support through an individual therapist or a group.