Anxiety. Everybody feels it at some point in their lives. However, not everyone is comfortable speaking out the words ‘I am feeling anxious’. It used to be seen as a sign of weakness, hence why there is still, to this very day, a stigma surrounding the word ‘anxiety’.
So I’m going to keep it real for whoever is reading this. I suffer from chronic anxiety, however, I am NOT WEAK.
In this blog post, I will share with you 7 practical and tested tips on how to manage anxiety in the moment. How do I know they work? Because I have tried and tested them myself, and for me, they work like a charm.
- Anxiety Is My Life-Long Friend
- Those Anxiety Triggers
- Finding The Tools To Manage My Anxious Mind
- 7 Practical Tips To Manage Anxiety In The Moment
- Final Thoughts
Anxiety Is My Life-Long Friend
As far back as I can remember I have always over worried about one thing or another. And, if there wasn’t anything to worry about I would find something.
I was a shy and anxious child, but I couldn’t tell anyone around me that I was feeling anxious, because back then, I didn’t understand what I was feeling. By the time I became a teenager, not only was I an over-worrier and an over-thinker, but I had also stepped into the role of a people pleaser. A deadly combination for someone suffering from anxiety.
When I became a mother, my over-worrying grew into something much worse. Fear. Fear of everything, fear of everyone. My world became a scary place. One in which I didn’t know how to climb my way out of. And when bad things happened, as they do, because life happens to everyone, my anxiousness would escalate to unbearable heights. As a young adult, I still didn’t understand what I was feeling.
Those Anxiety Triggers
Feelings of anxiety come in different forms for different people. It isn’t a one size fits all formula. So, let me tell you about my own experience.
Last week I was triggered by a video I saw online. Before the video was over, I was already feeling overwhelmed. My mind was racing just as fast as my heart and a pressure was building inside my chest. I was struggling to breathe and to think straight. My daughter came in, tried to talk to me and I had to excuse myself and tell her I was in the middle of something.
Fear. I was in the middle of FEAR.
A year ago, I would have spiralled out of control. My anxiety would have taken root deep down in my gut and I would be ruminating for days on end. Torturing myself with worst-case scenarios, walking into the darkest and loneliest corners of my mind.
That was a year ago.
I am not that person anymore. I am no longer my anxiety, and I am definitely NOT my thoughts.
Finding The Tools To Manage My Anxious Mind
This past year I have focused on healing, finding myself and overcoming challenges. And the only way I was able to do this was by using certain tools. These tools have saved me. Whilst they are widely available on the internet, I was introduced to them by my beautiful and brave friend Brenda.
Keeping my anxiety under control requires practising daily self-care and mindfulness. However, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve for when anxiety hits me hard and out of the blue. Fortunately, these episodes are usually far and in between, but when they do happen they can be debilitating.
Please note, I am not an expert or a medical professional. I am simply someone who knows what it’s like to feel so anxious that you want to jump out of your own skin. The following is a list of the steps I take that help me. It might not work for you, although I really hope it does.
A great way to take care of your mental health is by honouring and showing up for yourself.
7 Practical Tips To Manage Anxiety In The Moment
1. Bring Yourself Back To The Present Moment
When you hit a state of panic, the safest thing to do is bring yourself back to the present moment. This is what this looks like for me:
I find a safe space where I can be by myself. I close my eyes, concentrate on my breathing, listen to the sounds around me, and focus on the surface supporting my body. This goes on until I feel my body starting to relax. I ground myself and quiet my mind.
When you are panicking and catastrophizing, the logical part of your brain shuts down. Your nervous system goes into fight or flight mode, and nothing makes sense.
Taking the time to ground yourself and come back to the now, will allow you to evaluate your state of mind with more clarity.
And then ask yourself these three questions:
1. Can you control it?
So much of life is out of our control. The only thing you can control is your attitude towards any given situation. And yes, that sounds easier said than done, but it can be done.
Would you rather face challenges from a state of stress, or from a state of joy? I choose the latter. As hard as it is, it is the only option.
2. Does it have a solution?
Most of the time, yes. It might not be an easy one, but whoever said it would be easy?
3. Has it happened yet?
No. There is a high chance that you are worrying over something that hasn’t happened yet and may never happen. Instead of coming up with solutions, you allow the worry to rob you of your peace.
This exercise normally brings me back to the present moment. It calms me down, allows for logical thinking and helps me move on with my day. However, there are times when the anxiety lingers. A niggly feeling, almost like residue. A potential threat that sits at the entrance of my gut and needs to be eliminated.
When this happens, I move on to plan B:
2. Step Into A Cold Shower
A little trick I discovered a few months ago during some of the most challenging times of my life. Whenever I felt like I couldn’t snap out of an anxiety attack, or I felt a panic attack approaching, I would instantly step into a cold shower. This past winter has seen me take more cold showers than in all of my summers on Earth.
Benefits of Cold Showers:
- The shock of cold water on the body triggers a physiological response, leading to increased circulation and the release of endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers.
- Cold showers also stimulate the vagus nerve, which plays a crucial role in regulating heart rate and promoting relaxation.
3. Go For A Walk
There were times when the anxiety was so bad, I literally felt like I wanted to crawl out of my own body. Going on a long walk would work wonders. It helped clear my mind and put things into perspective.
Benefits Of Going Outside:
- Physical activity during a bout of anxiety helps the body release endorphins, leading to a sense of calm and reduced anxiety. The change of scenery provides you with the chance to divert your attention from anxious thoughts, promoting mindfulness and a temporary escape from stressors.
- Walking will also support cognitive function, enhancing clarity of thought and problem-solving abilities, which will help you manage anxious thinking patterns.
4. E.F.T – Emotional Freedom Technique
This has been a game-changer for me in terms of managing my anxiety. I was introduced to it by my friend Brenda and has become one of my favourite go-to tools.
Benefits of EFT:
Commonly known as tapping, EFT offers a range of benefits for emotional well-being and personal growth. It involves gently tapping on specific meridian points on the body while focusing on emotional issues or challenges. This technique has been shown to help reduce anxiety, stress, and negative emotions by disrupting the body’s stress response and calming the nervous system.
To read more on Emotional Freedom Technique, click here.
5. Practice Mindfulness
When it comes to mindfulness I always steer towards meditation. However, I fully understand this isn’t for everyone, especially not in the middle of an anxiety attack. It takes practice and great mental strength to meditate for as little as ten minutes when your body is in fight or flight mode.
There are a number of different ways you can practice mindfulness though. Whether it’s crosswords, sudoku or my favourite, a jigsaw puzzle, the fact that you have to put on your thinking cap on and leave aside any other thoughts, is bliss in itself.
Benefits Of Doing A Puzzle:
- The accomplishment of completing a puzzle triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, leading to a positive mood boost.
- The focused attention required to complete a puzzle promotes mindfulness, temporarily diverting attention from stressors and worries. This can be particularly beneficial for reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.
6. Disconnect From Social Media
This one is a must for me. Social media is jam-packed with triggers. Triggers which I need to avoid when I’m feeling anxious and disconnected from myself. The best course of action is to set my devices to one side for a while and do a social media detox. It is a direct path to my inner peace. And it can be for you too.
Benefits Of Disconnecting From Social Media
- Constant exposure to social media can lead to information overload, which can contribute to heightened stress and anxiety. Disconnecting provides a break from these triggers.
- Without the distraction of social media, you can be more present in the moment, cultivating mindfulness and appreciation of your surroundings.
Overall, taking a break from social media will promote mental clarity, emotional well-being, and a more balanced relationship with technology. It will allow you to enjoy life beyond the digital realm.
7. Ask For Help
There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are not okay. You don’t have to be okay all the time, and there is no shame in asking for help. Whether you feel it’s time for professional help, or asking a family member or a friend. Those who love you will want to help you.
I have been blessed with an amazing support system. My biggest support comes in the form of my husband. He will literally drop everything and come to my aid if I am feeling out of sorts. Whether it’s a walk in the middle of the night, bang in the middle of winter (true story) or a drive, or sitting down with me to do a puzzle. Maybe it’s as simple as a hug.
Ask for help. We are all fighting our own silent battles. There is no need to fight them alone.
There was a time when I felt as though my anxiety was something to feel ashamed of. I felt alone and misunderstood. Thankfully society has moved on. Not as much as it should have, but it has to the point that now anxiety sufferers don’t have to suffer alone.
Please always remember, you are not your thoughts. Suffering from anxiety does not define you as a person.
Do you have any coping techniques for when you are feeling anxious? We would love to hear about it. Please let us know in the comment section. Let’s help each other out.
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