When anxiety gets the best of you … Part 2 of 2 (list of anxiety self-help skills)

So here are some things you can try the next time anxiety gets the best of you.

First and for most, when you know you get frightened easily, stop watching scary movies and the news. Nowadays the News are filled with too much detail about the cruelty on this planet. While it is nice to be up to date on the disasters and wars, sometimes not knowing is bliss and a vacation for your worried mind.

The next tip is to become aware of your bodies anxiety symptoms which are usually: an increase in heart rate, increase in breathing, maybe sweaty hands, tingling in your stomach, light headedness, and so on. Becoming aware of your bodies signals can help you to apply the upcoming listed calming strategies early and maybe prevent a full on anxiety attack.

Keep a journal in which you will write any triggers that cause you to feel anxious.  This usually takes some practice and personal insight. You will have to calm down first and revisit what maybe has caused you to feel anxious. When did it first start? Triggers can be anything: sounds, smells, visual cues, colors, thoughts, behaviors, feelings, etc. The more triggers you can identify, the easier it gets to be proactive about using calming strategies.

Start to recognize any anxiety provoking thoughts. And the best way at the beginning is to write them down again. After you identify the thoughts that cause you anxiety, revisit them and see if they are true? Can you find evidence that your mind might be tricking you? Challenge these thoughts and try to find more balanced ones.

Now, things to do when recognizing your body’s symptoms: first of all try to take deep breaths also called belly breaths. These help you to slow your heart rate down and keep you from hyperventilating. The breathing will also help your muscles to relax and allow your mind to think more clearly and balanced.

Create a safe place in your mind. This is something you should be doing while not being anxious. Either come up with a place in your imagination or take a vacation magazine and pick a place you could see yourself feeling safe. Try to imagine it as detailed as possible. After you have picked it, close your eyes and envision yourself there. See yourself being calm. Try to focus on what you smell, hear, taste and feel at this place. Please be aware that this exercise/technique is only helpful when there is no anxiety-provoking trigger at this place. To give an example, I ones did this exercise with a client and the person envisioned a place with children. When we went deeper into this situation by imagining smells, sounds, feelings, tastes and activities there, the person started crying and felt more anxious than prior because the children triggered frightening memories from the past. Anyway, after having established this safe place, keep practicing going there in your mind for a couple of minutes. It is important to keep practicing this so it becomes easier to apply when you actually do feel frightened.

The next techniques, you probably have already heard and read about in other articles. They are also often used for depression treatment. In the mental health field we like to call them coping skills which are for example: working out, reading, praying, taking a bath, listening to calming music, getting a massage, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, etc. Anything that you can come up with that helps you to relax and be safe (no drugs, or alcohol). Often it helps a little bit when you can distract your self from the anxiety-provoking event and revisit it later in your mind to identify the earlier mentioned triggers.

In order to take control of your anxiety, it is also very beneficial to keep being in the here and now (being mindful). Often thinking too much about the future or past can put us in a situation that we cannot control at this point of time. This feeling of being out of control possible leads to more anxiety. If you want to make future goals or process the past, pick a certain time and place for it plus keep your anxiety fighting tools close. Someone ones told me that that they were able to mentally put the fear in a box when it came up uncontrolled and let it out in situations where it was appropriate plus safe to face them. How great is that! Here is a website that gives exercises and information on mindfulness: http://www.the-guided-meditation-site.com/mindfulness-exercises.html.

One more technique that I love and is for sure worth a try: creating a little anxiety emergency kit for yourself. You decide what goes in it but keep in mind the goal is to calm you down. Therefore, it could be a soothing music or sounds (youtube is great to find something like nature sounds, etc.), maybe sun glasses or a peaceful picture, a certain smell that calms you down, a taste that helps to relax (gum, mint, etc.), for the tactile people, having a stress ball handy, some fresh water or cooling pad, or a little soft fabric to relax, plus add a calming phrase like a slogan to remind you to relax. Here is an example of a slogan: “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” (Thich Nhat Hanh). For more examples of quotes about mindfulness have a look at this website: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/mindfulness.

Put all of your anxiety emergency tools into a little bag and keep it with you, ready to use when necessary to help you ground yourself and be in the moment.

My last suggestion is to seek professional help when anxiety is getting a hold of you and you feel like it is too difficult to control it. A good therapist can support you in identifying ways to stay present, breath, etc. Also, techniques like hypnosis, EMDR, Cognitive behavior therapy, and others are very helpful and promising treatments for anxiety disorders. You don’t have to suffer alone. A good counselor may also send you to a psychiatrist for medication evaluation when your symptoms are too intense to start working through them.

Ok, this will sum up all my suggestions at this point of time. If you have questions or requests for new blogs feel free to leave some feedback. I appreciate you taking the time and reading my blog. www.kathrinwinklertherapy.com