We all experience anxiety from time to time, it's a human emotion. Sometimes it can be helpful - just giving you that edge to nail a presentation or give a great performance. Other times it gets in the way and stops you from doing what you'd like to do. For some people, it can be incapacitating, making everyday activities impossible. Wherever you are on the anxiety scale, consider what's in your personal 'toolkit' for dealing with anxiety when it strikes.
Here's what mine contains:
- Deep breaths - just 3 to 5 of these is enough to reconnect me with myself and the present moment and to change how I feel.
- Water - always carry a bottle of it. A few sips of water lets you pause, collect yourself, rehydrate a little and take a breath.
- Hugs - a hug from someone you love is powerfully reassuring and calming. Doesn't have to be a partner: hugs from friends, parents, your kids, your pets - anyone you happen to like, really - will provide this comfort.
- Mindfulness - when my mind is racing, I remind myself to stop and notice five things I can see, hear, touch and smell. This puts me back into the present moment and reminds me that there is nothing threatening going on right now in real life - it's all in my thoughts. And I can refocus those thoughts.
- Reframe the anxiety - I can tell myself "a little stress gives me a burst of energy and extra focus" or "it's alright to feel anxious about this sort of thing, and it will pass." This allows me to welcome the anxiety on board as something that's attempting to help me rather than make my life harder. The only time I wouldn't do this is at bedtime, when welcoming anxiety would stop me sleeping. Then I try to remind myself "I'll bank this feeling and come back to it tomorrow."
- Keep it real - anxious thoughts are often untrue or at least vast exaggerations. Come back to the question "Is this thought true?" and if you think it is, ask yourself "OK, where's the evidence?" It's a good way of checking yourself.
- Laughter - I know, last thing you feel like when you're anxious, right? But it can release tension, which is why we sometimes laugh when we're nervous. Find some hilarious cat videos on YouTube and give yourself permission to release some nervous energy.
- Have faith - in yourself. Remind yourself "I can do this." You've dealt with anxiety before, you can do it again. I hope that the more I deal with it myself, the better I get at it.
- Mistakes are valuable - know that mistakes and failure are NOT reasons to worry. They are actually valuable lessons. Try welcoming your slips ups and being curious about them, instead of letting them mean that you aren't good enough.
So, that's some of the ways I've found for managing anxiety, but perhaps you have your own - do comment below if there's anything you can share. And if you're struggling, counselling can help. Feel free to get in touch with me, or to search for a therapist in your area via the Counselling Directory or the BACP listings.