The internet is awash with tips for managing anxiety. Some are great, some I hate with a passion.
The ones I particularly hate are the ones that seem to have been written by people who don’t suffer from anxiety, things like
- Get Enough Sleep
- Think About Something Else
- Go For A Walk
I mean come on!
Being told to get enough sleep when you’re waking up regularly at 3am because you’re brain is in overdrive and you’re catastrophising for Britain is NOT HELPFUL
Being told to Think About Something Else when you can’t stop obsessing about what might happen to your child if you die is NOT HELPFUL
And being told to Go For A Walk when you’re so anxious you can’t make it out of your room is NOT HELPFUL
So……what is helpful, and achievable, when your anxiety has got a hold of you? Here are the 5 things I find most helpful.
- TALK ABOUT IT I’m shouting for a reason. I find this the most difficult and simultaneously the most helpful thing I can do for myself when I’m anxious. Whether you talk about how your anxiety makes you feel, or the thing you’re anxious about, or even just putting into words the fact that you are feeling very anxious has a therapeutic effect and starts to get you out of the pattern of negative thoughts in your head. Choose wisely when deciding who to talk to though. Don’t share your anxiety with anyone that’s likely to put you down, dismiss you or try to make you feel better by denying your anxiety. Talk to someone you know to be sympathetic, a good listener and who has your best interests at heart. If you don’t know anyone in real life, find yourself a coach, counsellor or therapist. If the first one you find doesn’t suit you, keep looking until you find one that does – anyone reputable will understand how important that is.
- Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I do xyz”? This only works in certain situations (obviously the worst that can happen if you drink a bottle of bleach is pretty grim) but for me there’s a clear link to my number 1 tip because being frightened of the consequences is what often stops me from TALKING ABOUT IT. When I ask myself what it is that I’m worried might happen if I open up I find I’m worrying that I will be told off or disrespected or made to feel in some way bad because of the way I’m feeling. These worries are all hangovers from things that happened many years ago and when I allow myself to acknowledge that they have no relevance to my situation today I am freed up to be able to share how I’m feeling, safe in the knowledge that I will be heard and understood. You might find too that your feelings of anxiety are stopping you from doing something beneficial because of some very old fears lurking below the surface.
- Understand what your anxiety is about. Knowledge is power and the more you understand something the better equipped you are to deal with it. It’s not always obvious what the root cause of your anxiety is – you’re likely to need some professional help and some understanding of the way the mind works to get to the bottom of it – but you can get an understanding of what it’s about today by analysing it and figuring out what’s making it tick. My Anxiety Personality Profiling Tool will help you to do that so if you can’t see the wood for the trees and just know that you are really anxious a lot of the time, use that to get started.
- Use each of your senses to ground yourself in the here and now. If your thoughts are starting to fly away and you can feel the adrenaline coursing through your body even though there’s no physical threat there, give yourself things to notice that will allow you to recognise that you are safe. Using each sense in turn, notice the sounds you can hear, the different scents you can recognise, what movement you can see, the texture of your clothes and/or surroundings, the taste in your mouth and find how many objects of a particular colour you can see from where you are. Focusing on the evidence of your senses will take you away from focusing on your anxiety and give you room to breathe.
- And finally, sometimes we all just have to weather the storm, and in those situations it can be calming and grounding to have a mantra to repeat to yourself. I wondered whether to include this tip because it’s pretty close to telling you to Think About Something Else, but I’ve decided on balance to allow it because for me, there’s a difference between suggesting you ignore your anxious thoughts and distract yourself with thinking about fluffy bunnies or rewatching endless episodes of Hannibal, and actively choosing to acknowledge your anxious mind and using a mantra to calm yourself. My mantra is Mother Julian of Norwich’s famous prayer
All shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well
I find this enormously comforting and it takes on a meditative quality when repeated over and over. I don’t use it to block my anxious thoughts, it’s more along the lines of “I am feeling really anxious about xyz and I have been here before and come out the other side so I know that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”. You will know what works best for you and how best to use it, and if you haven’t found your own mantra yet here are a few suggestions:
There’ll be another time, another dayRuth Bader Ginsberg
This too shall passanon
I have coped with this before, I can cope with it again
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