WHen anxiety hits... some suggestions for what to do.

By Dr GaryCA Latest Activity September 10, 2011 at 11:20 am Views 2,853 Likes 3

Dr GaryTherapist

I don’t know anyone, including myself, who doesn’t get hit with a wave of anxiety from time to time. Life can throw a lot of curveballs, and in these uncertain times that we live in, we are all susceptible. But if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety-related condition, then anxiety can seem to come out of nowhere, and the curveballs that life throws your way can feel like they are about to knock you over.

I don’t have any easy answers for dealing with those times when anxiety hits especially hard. But I do have a few ideas that have worked with my clients. You might give some of them a try, if you haven’t already. And I am interested in any techniques that have worked for you that you might want to share.

First, what are your anxiety symptoms? The common ones are feeling irritable, restless, or tense. Having a sense that something bad might happen, even if you aren’t sure what it is or don’t want to think about what it might be. Looking around for signs of danger. Having trouble focusing. Physical symptoms like dry mouth, sweating, headaches, upset stomach, and others. And just plain old panic.

Being aware of your own anxiety symptoms is a good place to start. Some of the anxiety-reduction techniques are symptom-focused (more to come on this…).

Also ask yourself: What triggers my anxiety? You may encounter certain situations – or people – that, for some reason, you tend to react to with anxiety. You might want to consider having a strategy in place for dealing with these situations or people, or even seeing if you can avoid them.

Now, here are a few ideas to think about.

Don’t fight yourself. Acknowledge how you are feeling, including the fear. Don’t try to pretend you aren’t feeling anxious or tell yourself that you shouldn’t be feeling that way. Assure yourself that you are safe and that you will take care of yourself.

Calm yourself down. Are you familiar with any relaxation techniques that you might use? Going off by yourself and taking some deep breaths. Visualizing a calm scene, like the beach, with yourself in the middle of it. Taking a couple of minutes to meditate. You might want to learn relaxation techniques that work for you so that you have them handy when you find yourself in an anxious moment.

Avoid catastrophic thinking. If you decide to view a situation as a catastrophe, then it is more likely to feel like one. Instead, take a step back and ask yourself some questions. What is making me feel anxious? Am I in real danger or does it feel that way? Am I turning this into a catastrophe when maybe it isn’t so bad or is only temporary? The idea here is to get a quick reality check on what’s going on.

Remind yourself: I have been through this before. Chances are, this isn’t the first time that you have felt overwhelmed by anxiety. Sure, it’s never easy. But the point is that you have felt this way before and you got through it (another way to avoid catastrophic thinking). Give yourself some positive self-talk.

Remind yourself that you have options. Anxiety affects your ability to think rationally. As a result, you may feel so overwhelmed by the emotions of the moment that you don’t think you have a way out. While you’re taking those calming, deep breaths, also remind yourself that you have options. You’re not trapped. These positive messages this may help to activate your rational side and add some balance when your emotions are on overload.

Ask yourself: What has worked in the past? When you have found yourself feeling overwhelmed by anxiety in the past, have you done anything that has helped you? Any techniques that helped? Anything that you told yourself, or that someone else said to you, that helped?

Exercise. It might help to get active. Exercise actually helps to reduce stress and tension. Take a walk, go to the gym, turn on some music and dance – whatever exercise you enjoy and that is consistent with your activity level (you may want to get some advice from your doctor on this one). Use exercise proactively to reduce stress by having a regular exercise routine.

Connect with your spirituality. Do you have spiritual or religious beliefs and practices that help to provide a sense of peace and security? If not, you might want to consider developing a spiritual practice that helps you to maintain your peaceful center, and that you can count on when you are feeling anxious. Look upward!

Reach out for support. Calling upon friends and family members during times of anxiety can be a big help. Consider taking stock of your support network, and make a list of who you can count on the most to be available and supportive, that you can check in with, when you need a port in the storm. You might even ask them to be available during when you are feeling anxious, and let them know what you most need from them during those times. Talk it out with someone you trust!

Do you have an escape route? If you are currently working with a mental health professional, have a talk with them about what you can do when you feel like your anxiety is overwhelming you. This might include not only how to cope but whom you can call. While you’re at it, if you are on medication, you might want to have a talk about your current regimen, as well as factors like what you are eating and any alcohol use.

Okay, so I gave you a few ideas. Anything that has worked for you that you want to share? I’m all ears (eyes)!

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