Taking Control of Anxiety
JUST FOR A MOMENT,
Close your eyes and take a breath?
Notice what you hear?
Say thank you for something you have?
Give yourself permission to do or not do?
Anxiety builds when we get lost in our every day doing, going, living. Next thing you know you’re exhausted, grumpy, and don’t have the energy or want to be with anyone. You just want to veg, binge-watch, eat, sleep, or drink the hardship away. All these things are so easily accessed to us. Not to mention how easy it is to escape into our phones. But all these things are only temporarily calming anxiety.
Right now, I have a million “to do’s” on the list and feeling overwhelmed. Yes, therapists get overwhelmed too. Started my day at 6:30 a.m. because I couldn’t sleep with the to-do list in my head. I figured I’ll just get a jump start.
Granted, it has been very productive. By 10:30 a.m., I was proud of how much I was able to get done. Even with taking a breakfast break.
It was not without stress however! I recognized moments of anxiety creeping up. The heavy breathing, rapid heartbeats, the worrying thoughts, re-playing the list in my head of all that needs to be done.
But that was just it. I recognized my anxiety beginning to start.
I caught it! By recognizing, I was able to intervene in that moment and remind myself, “It’s okay. Just do this task right now. Put the others away in your mind until you’re ready. And if you can’t get to it today, it’s okay.” Talking to yourself reminds your mind and body that you’re safe. Self talk is an important tool for calming anxiety.
After all, is the world going to end if everything on the list isn’t done?
Sure enough, I was able to calm down and refocus on that task at hand.
Several tasks down the road, I noticed my energy slowing. I was feeling irritated, resentful, frustrated. And at one moment, felt the tears coming. The words in my head, “Forget it. I can’t do this anymore.”
Again Recognition! Followed by a deep breath, some more encouraging self-talk, and another reminder, “I can’t do everything or all at once. It’s okay.”
I later gave myself permission to take that breakfast break. Enjoyed my coffee with my husband. Anxiety once again, calming.
No matter what anybody tells you, breaks are okay! They are much needed. How many of us work through lunch? Please stop. Your mind will only turn to mush and soon you will burn out.
So, here are some reminders to manage anxiety from taking over your day, and overtime, your life.
*3 to 5 Deep breaths 2-3 times throughout the day: Breathe in through the nose slowly for 4 counts, hold for 2, and out through the mouth for another 4 counts. Repeat 3 to 5 times in a row. I know. Every therapist tells you this. Well, that’s because deep breathing directly changes the hyperarousal, Sympathetic nervous state (anxiety, stress) to a Parasympathetic nervous state (calm, relax).
*Listen to a 5 to 15-minute guided meditation
*Use Self-talk: It sounds silly and no you’re not crazy. It works! Remind yourself it’s okay. You’re okay.
*Give yourself permission: Permission to take breaks, permission to not do it all, permission to not get it done perfectly, permission to ask for help or delegate, and permission to feel what you feel (positive or negative).
*Pat yourself on the back: Tell yourself your proud no matter how small, big, or silly the achievement.
*Make room in your day to do something you enjoy. An outing, a craft, a good book, time with family or friends, exercise, or watching your favorite movie. When we have something to look forward too, it makes the have-to’s easier.
Anxiety wreaks havoc on our mind and body. And you have some control of how much it will on yours.
Notice I’m not saying that you must change your schedule or job, etc. Of course, those things can be helpful too, but we’re not always able to do so, or the timing isn’t right. Once and a while, we are just going to temporarily have more things on our plate. These are some tools to help you get through the temporary and not so temporary day-to-day busy-ness.
Also notice how many times my anxiety came up. It will keep wanting to come back. Especially, if its a pattern that has been around for a long time. It’s on automatic mode. So don’t be discouraged. Keep applying these tools, and they will become your new automatic.
If you find these tools are not enough, thoughts are consistently ruminating, feel you’re beginning to experience panic attacks, it may be time to get extra support. If you have recently or in the past experienced trauma, deeper work and interventions may be needed. Contact me if you would like to know how therapy can help.