Anxiety can be extremely tough to deal with, because it creates a self-replicating cycle of feelings, thoughts and behaviours. The more anxious you are, the more anxious you are likely to become. Any form of anxiety can feed on itself, causing your levels of anxiety to rise. To get your anxiety under control, it is necessary to break the cycle. The following techniques are designed to help you through periods of heightened anxiety but are not recommended as “fix” for panic attacks, which will be addressed in a later blog. (Panic attacks can be defined as a sudden and overwhelming and often disabling feeling of anxiety. More often than not, the attack is accompanied by a fear of anxiety symptoms, e.g. believing a racing heart is the sign of a heart attack, or that hyperventilation is a sign of imminent suffocation).
1. Ground Yourself Using Your Five Senses
During heightened anxiety, it is easy to become lost in your own spiralling thoughts. This can lead to a feeling of disconnectedness. Pull yourself out of your own head by focusing on your senses one at a time. Notice one thing you can see, then one thing you can hear, and so forth until you have run through all five senses. You might still be anxious, but you should feel the intensity start to subside.
2. Use Breathing Techniques
Breathing is an excellent focal point to use when you feel too hyped up to even focus on your individual senses. When you are anxious, your breathing tends to become shallow and rapid. This depletes your oxygen levels and can make you feel light headed. Focus your full attention on the feeling of air entering and leaving your body. Inhale through your nose for a few counts, hold your breath for two beats, and then slowly exhale through your mouth. This calms your system, improves your oxygen levels, and breaks the cycle of fear.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the art of intentional acceptance, remaining fully present in the moment and allowing your thoughts and feelings to pass without judgment or commentary. Although it feels horrible, anxiety really is just a feeling. Practice allowing your anxiety to flow through you without trying to fight it, and you will notice it lessening. This is an advanced technique that takes a great deal of practice, but once you perfect it, you will be much better equipped to cope with your anxiety.
4. Challenge Your Thoughts
Anxiety can be fuelled by negative thoughts and “What if” statements. Try challenging those thoughts as they occur. For example, anxiety might tell you that you will “die” if you say something “stupid” in front of your boss. Confront that thought. Has anyone ever really died of embarrassment? Is your boss really an evil monster that will condemn you forever for saying something a little boneheaded? Practice countering the negative thoughts as they occur, and they will gradually have less power over you.
5. Try Visualisation
When you are in the throes of anxiety, it is common to wish you were somewhere, anywhere else. Yet it is not always practical to flee from the scene. Instead, give yourself permission to go somewhere else mentally. Focus on a place that makes you feel happy and relaxed. Some people choose the beach. Some choose the mountains, or even an Alaskan glacier. Whichever place you select, conjure up as many details as possible. Feel the warm sun on your skin or the cooling breeze. Pretend your worries and fears are clouds passing overhead or leaves dancing in the wind. Watch them float by as you relax in your happy place.
For best results, practice this meditation when you are not feeling anxious. The more familiar you are with it, the easier it will be to call it to mind when needed.
6. Seek Professional Assistance
Anxiety is an insidious issue that often gets worse over time. While the above techniques can help pull you out of a period of heightened anxiety, truly working through your anxiety requires the assistance of a professional therapist. Your therapist will use a variety of methods to unravel your anxiety, while giving you personalised techniques for effectively managing it day to day.
If you are seeking compassionate, understanding therapy from a highly trained and qualified therapist in London, I invite you to contact Martin Cox at Achieving Balance today on 020 7096 8854 for a free, no-obligation 20 minute consultation. I tailor the therapy specifically to each client in an approach that provides great flexibility in frequency, session length, timing, duration, and even location. Let’s take the first step toward your emotional health and well-being together.