Tips for managing anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety refers to an uncomfortable experience in which a person feels like they are in danger or otherwise at risk, and they find it hard to settle down from this feeling. Physical symptoms may include rapid breathing, increased heart rate, muscle tension, lightheadedness, dizziness, tingling, sweating and flushing. These are all associated with your survival response, and would be useful to you if you needed to protect yourself from a current physical threat. We start to label these feelings as anxiety when they exist in the absence of a physical or social threat.

What is causing your anxiety?

A key to managing your anxiety is to understand where it comes from. Consider the following questions:

  • Are you struggling with overwhelming past experiences? If so, it may be wise to seek the assistance of a trauma informed therapist. Working through trauma on your own may further overwhelm you.
  • Are your stress levels too high? Is there anything you can do to reduce your stress?
  • Are you taking the time to relax and spend time unwinding? If you’re not, what would it take to fit in some rest and relaxation?

Things that can maintain anxiety

One of the most important things that many of us do that helps keep our anxiety levels high is that we tend to avoid things that make us anxious. When we avoid the things that we feel anxious about, we miss out on opportunities to learn that we can cope with the thing that makes us anxious.

Exercises to soothe anxiety

There are a few exercises that have been shown to help with anxiety:

  • Abdominal Breathing: many people find that taking a few slow, deep breaths with a long exhale helps to decrease anxiety in the moment.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: spending some time stretching your body, or going through muscle sequences from head to toe, and gently tensing and then relaxing your muscles can help to reduce your overall anxiety levels.
  • Imagery: taking some time to remember a relaxing time of your life or a beautiful place that you have visited can calm and relax you.
  • Other soothing activities: what do you like to do that you find relaxing? Reading? Going for a walk? Painting? Talking to a friend? Make a list of things that you find soothing, and make a plan to do some of them.

Helpful thoughts to soothe anxiety

  • Remind yourself that you are safe now.
  • Remind yourself that you have coped with difficulties in the past.
  • Tell yourself that you can pro-actively take some time to make relaxing a priority, and follow through.