Updated: Jan 23
Hi all, so this post will be all about anxiety and how to manage this nasty, pesky feeling that many people have to deal with on a regular basis. Let me just start by saying that I truly empathize with people with anxiety because I have struggled with it myself and I know how debilitating this feeling can be. However, there is hope and that's why I decided to write this post! As I mentioned in my previous posts, I have been dealing with a lot of health issues during the past few years. Waking up with new, unexpected (and unexplained) health issues is one of the most terrifying things anyone can live through and it can definitely cause some bad anxiety. But before we get to the solution, let's explain what anxiety is.
So what the heck is anxiety? To keep it simple, anxiety is just extreme worry/fear that something bad might happen. Of course, I am being very general in my description here. There are many anxiety disorders but I won't go into that, I just want to give some tips on how to manage anxiety in general. Always remember to seek professional help, if you feel that anxiety is causing significant impairment/distress in your life. We've all had excessive worry or apprehension about something, but if that feeling lasts for more than 6 months...that's when you know you probably have a new lover called anxiety! Anxiety might differ from person to person but some of the key features are feeling restless, or having that "pit in the stomach" sensation. You might also feel shaky, irritable, easily fatigued and experiencing sleep disturbances. However, the main culprit for all these physical responses is our mind, or I should say our thoughts. Anxiety is a "thoughts" disorder, yet many people are not even aware about having worrisome thoughts and they might just experience the physical sensations, which in turn might cause worrisome thoughts! As you can see, this anxiety thing can really be a nasty b@#ch. So, what can we do to tame this beast??? Well, the number one thing to do is to become aware.
1. Start paying attention to your thoughts and what is that you are worrying about. Are you "catastrophizing"? Meaning, are you worrying that the worst case scenario about something might happen? If yes, then ask yourself "how likely is that this worry will come true?" Look at your past experiences as well as experiences of people you know. Even if the unlikely situation happened in the past, how likely is that it will happen again? Most of the time, the answer is VERY UNLIKELY. At this point, ask yourself "in the very unlikely event in which the worst case scenario would come true, will I be ok? Will I be ok in a week? In a month? In a year?" the answer to one of these questions will very likely be yes, because you will be ok eventually. After all of this, remind yourself that something other than your worst case scenario is much more likely to happen and you will be ok.
2. Another thing that you can do is reminding yourself that just because you are thinking about something, that DOESN'T make it true! Your thoughts are just that...thoughts! Try to become an observant of your thoughts, almost like watching something on TV. Try not to judge your thoughts but just observe them. I remember reading about the acronym R.A.I.N and it has helped me tremendously in becoming an observer of my thoughts. R stands for recognize, so recognize what you are thinking. A stands for accept, so just accept that you are having those thoughts. Don't judge them, just accept that you are having them. I stands for investigate. Ask yourself how these thoughts make you feel, where are they coming from, and what's their purpose. Last but not least, N stands for non-identify. Do not identify with your thoughts. Create distance and just remind yourself that thoughts are simply that....thoughts floating in your head. They are not making or dictating who you are and what will happen!
3. If none of the above tips helped, then try the 5,4,3,2,1 grounding exercise. This is really a mindful activity because it forces you to stay in the present. It's really simple, just pay attention to 5 things you see and describe them in detail. Once you are done, look for 4 things that you can touch and really pay attention to their texture and how they feel in your hand. After this, look for 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste (I always carry mints or gum because of this!). This might seem like a silly exercise but it's not. It helps you shift your attention from worrisome thoughts to the present moment and that's one of the most important things with anxiety.
4. Last but not least, engage in something. Ok, so what would "something" be? You can start by taking a few "belly" breaths. Meaning, fill your belly as you breathe in and empty the belly as you breathe out slowly, through your mouth. Do this a few times. You can then engage in my favorite kind of anxiety reducing activities...the arts! When I talk about the arts, I really mean any kind of expressive arts from painting to dancing to making music, poetry, writing, acting etc. etc. It doesn't matter how good you are at those things, what matters is the process of doing them! That's exactly the foundation of my Catartika classes. It's the act of engaging in those activities that will make you feel better, not how good you are at doing them! I don't know who said that "creativity elevates happiness" but it's absolutely true. Try it to believe it.
I do realize that this post only scratches the surface on how to manage anxiety and it's not meant to be a substitute for regular therapy sessions or medications, but I certainly hope that someone can benefit from some of the tips I gave. I constantly utilize them in my life and many of my clients have reported great improvement from implementing some or all of these suggestions, so I hope they will help whoever read this post. You can also find 2 free downloadable resources on our Creative Corner page. One is a relaxation script and the other one is an outline of techniques to manage distressing emotions (not just anxiety). They are FREE so take advantage of them :)
Ok everyone, thank you so much for following this blog and being part of the LaLaZen family. Please feel free to share, leave a comment or question!