Do you struggle with anxiety? Do you suffer from physical symptoms such as palpitations? Do you find that feeling anxious often spirals into a full-blown panic attack?
If you struggle with anxiety, counselling and psychotherapy can help you to address the underlying causes. Meanwhile, when anxiety symptoms rear their ugly head day-to-day, it’s worth learning coping strategies, to help you to manage your anxiety in the moment.
Here are 5 top tips to help you begin to gain some control over your anxiety.
Pay attention to the physical sensations in your body. What do you notice? Physical symptoms may include:
- feeling hot
- rapid heart beat
- churning stomach
- feeling sick
- tense muscles
Recognising physical sensations can help you to spot when you’re beginning to feel anxious, and put strategies in place to manage it before it takes over.
Give your brain something to do, using a distraction technique. Here’s one example:
- count slowly from 0 – 10
- then count slowly backwards to 0
- concentrate and if you make a mistake, that’s okay, just start again
- repeat until the symptoms have eased
Breathe! Breathing techniques can help to ease the ‘flight, fight, or freeze’ response that causes symptoms of anxiety. Here’s one example of a breathing exercise:
- close your eyes
- imagine you have a bubble wand in front of you
- imagine you’re going to blow a huge bubble whilst ensuring that it doesn’t burst
- take a deep slow breath in
- breathe out SLOWLY, imagining the bubble growing bigger and bigger
- as you breathe back in, the bubble returns back to the wand
- repeat 10 times or until symptoms have eased
It can take between 45 minutes to a few hours for the adrenaline and other hormones that flood our system to fully disperse. That is how our mind and body works to protect us from danger or perceived danger. You can repeat breathing techniques intermittently after the event if it helps.
Also, why not try a regular practice of different breathing techniques when you’re not feeling stressed, to get into the habit, for example first thing in the morning, or 3 times a day. When you master being able to spot when you are at the beginning of feeling anxious, you may notice that you’re not breathing well. When you do, take a deep cleansing breath and instruct your muscles to relax.
Self soothe with positive self talk. When we’re feeling anxious, our brain and body is preparing to deal with a perceived danger. Positive self talk can remind our brain that there is no danger, and the ‘flight, fight, or freeze’ response is not needed. Examples of positive self talk for soothing include:
- “This too shall pass.”
- “I am safe.”
- “It is going to be okay.”
Identify your support network. Who and what can help you when you’re feeling triggered? Examples might include:
- people who you trust and rely on to be supportive
- tell them what helps when you are anxious, and what you know to be unhelpful
- a support group
- online forums
- your GP
- your counsellor or psychotherapist
Being able to spot the early signs of feeling anxious by paying attention to physical sensations will come with practice, and will enable you to put strategies in place to avoid symptoms from getting worse / or a full-blown panic attack.
There are many distraction techniques and breathing exercises that can help, and it’s important to find techniques and exercises that work best for you.
Lastly, identifying who and what is in your support network and asking for support when you need it is essential.
Counselling and psychotherapy can help you to get to the bottom of how your anxiety has developed and ways in which you can begin to move forward.