How to Deal with Anxiety | Step Two, Coping Skills
If you've been searching for how to deal with anxiety then this blog post is for you.
~But if you haven't checked out my blog post on identifying triggers of anxiety go ahead and pop over to that post first because that really is the first step in learning how to manage your anxiety.~
In order to take control of your anxiety, you have to know what is triggering you. But what do you do once you know what your triggers are?
Step two in learning how to deal with anxiety is developing coping skills. Coping skills are really just anything that you can do that helps lessen the symptoms of anxiety. There are tons of different coping skills that may be beneficial to you, and I'm going to go through a few of my favorites in this post.
So, what you want to remember with coping skills is that there are so many out there, there are so many that you can create on your own, and every coping skill is not going to be for everyone. Some things that may calm me down and lessen my anxiety may not work for you. So as you go through this post try to keep an open mind and think about whether or not that particular coping technique is something that you feel like will be a good fit for you.
Coping Skills for Anxiety
Deep Breathing-- I know this might sound a little bit cliché, but the reason why it is a cliché is that it works. When you take deep breaths and you slow your breathing down it actually lowers your heart rate and can calm you down considerably. My favorite technique for deep breathing is to breathe in and count to four while you're breathing in, then hold your breath in for 4 seconds and then breathe out for 6 seconds as though you're blowing through a straw. Really tiny controlled breathing. Do this for at least 5 minutes and that should help calm down your anxiety.
Limit your exposure to your trigger-- If at all possible, it’s sometimes best to simply avoid being triggered all together. I realize this is not always going to be feasible; if the trigger is talking to your boss because you work in a toxic workplace, it may not be possible to avoid being triggered. However, people who are dealing with anxiety often are dealing with multiple triggers. So as much as you can, try to limit your exposure to whatever triggers your anxiety as much as possible.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation-- This is a process in which you tighten your muscles and then slowly release that tension. The cool thing about this technique is it's almost as though you can feel the tension leaving your body and the anxiety flowing right out of you with it. The reason why it’s progressive muscle relaxation is that you usually start from either the top or the bottom of your body and tighten those muscles and release them. So for instance, if you're starting from the bottom you may flex your feet and then slowly release that tension and relax. Then you would tighten up your calf muscles and then you slowly release them and you would continue that until you have gone through all of the muscle groups in your body from bottom to top (or you can do top to bottom). At the end of that process you would tighten all the muscles in your body at once, as tightly as possible and then slowly release every single muscle. Progressive muscle relaxation can work wonders in helping you alleviate the tension that you're feeling and really lessening your anxiety symptoms.
Mindfulness-- This is really just the art of practicing mindfulness and being aware of your surroundings, really taking in the situation as it is. When practicing mindfulness meditation you become very in tune with what's going on in the environment around you. You can achieve this by listening to the sounds in your environment, feeling the wind blowing across your skin, and being aware of how your body feels sitting in the chair. You also want to be very aware of your breathing and what’s going on inside your body. This can take some time, and it takes a lot of practice to get really good at it. You'll notice that you'll have thoughts, either anxious thoughts or just random thoughts, that want to pop in your head while you're trying to clear your mind. The art of mindfulness is to simply acknowledge those thoughts and then gently push them aside. That part takes the most practice and is most difficult to do. But with practice, you can learn to slow your brain down enough that you can control your thoughts. This is something you can do even when you're not in a full-on meditative state, but just at all times of your life. Work on being present in the moment and being mindful of what's going on around you.
Imagery-- When you envision something sad, that in turn can make you feel sad. The same is true for feeling calm and relaxed. What you do with imagery is devise a safe space for your mind to go when you start to feel anxious. The trick to this technique is that you really have to go all in on being really specific with the details of your safe space environment. For me, my safe space (or happy place) is on the beach. I envision myself in a tropical paradise, lying in a hammock. I can feel the sun on my skin and I can hear the water crashing and feel the mist coming off the ocean. I get as detailed as possible with this because the magic of this coping skill is to trick the mind into thinking that you’re there. You can always go to your safe space no matter where you are. This is a great method for when you’re feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, or having full on anxiety.
So, there you have it! My favorite tips for using coping skills for anxiety. Maybe all of these coping skills will work for you, maybe you'll use them for different triggers at different times, or maybe you’ll find that you want to modify parts of them. I challenge you to try them all out and see what works best for you. Either way, it’s important to have some coping skills ready to go before you start feeling overwhelmed. The time to plan is before the crisis, not during!
I really hope that this information is helpful to you. If you feel like it is, please let me know by dropping a comment below! And be sure to subscribe to future blog posts because I don’t want you to miss any of this information that’s designed to help you live your best life!
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