9 Ways to Cope with Anxiety
Updated: Nov 17
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services
When we are in the peak of an anxious moment, it can feel overwhelming and hard to manage. However, you can lean on some coping strategies that can help you get through these hard times and reinstate your belief and confidence in yourself.
Read on for some tips and feel free to use one or more that stand out to you.
1. Deep breathing
Using deep breathing - including such techniques as square breathing or box breathing where your inhale and exhale alternates as you imagine moving along the sides of a square - is an excellent way of trying to calm your body and your mind if you are feeling anxious.
Being able to calm yourself down can help you feel less overwhelmed and distressed by your anxiety and, as a result, you will feel more in control.
Grounding involves focusing on your five senses - sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. For example, you might focus on looking at a tree or greenery outside of the window, listen to the birds chirping or a favourite song, smell the scent of a candle or your perfume, touch something soft like a cozy blanket or stroke your pet's fur, and savor the taste of your tea or coffee.
If these things are hard to experience directly in the moment, perhaps take a minute to imagine what a relaxing scene could look like or pretend that you are smelling your favourite scent.
Engaging the senses can have a powerful effect on calming you down and helping you stay in the present moment rather than being preoccupied with your worries about the future.
3. Positive self--talk
Speaking to yourself in a positive, supportive, and compassionate way will allow you to feel more confident in your ability to cope with your anxiety.
The next time your inner voice says "I can't do this", try to tell yourself "it will be hard but I will do the best I can" or "I may not get it on the first try but I can keep working at it and that's what's important".
These are just a few examples of statements - feel free to use phrases and words that resonate with you.
4. Focus on your strengths
Remind yourself of your strengths, successes, and skills. How were you able to handle anxiety-provoking situations in the past? What skills did you draw on? What are some strengths you see in yourself or that others have said about you?
Consider some of the scenarios that made you anxious before and what helped you get through them. Keeping these points at the forefront of your mind can help you challenge your anxious thoughts and feelings.
5. Think big picture
Ask yourself the following questions:
-Will this matter a week from now?
-Will this matter a month from now?
-How about a year from now?
-How about in 5 years?
Thinking in this way can give you a fresh perspective such that what feels so distressing in the moment may not persist as long as you might think it will. This mere thought alone might bring you some comfort and help the situation or problem seem less daunting.
6. Name your feelings
Saying how you feel out loud can allow you to acknowledge and appreciate how you are feeling in the moment. Giving yourself the time and space to experience your emotions can increase your self-awareness and is also an important first step before you can focus on how you want to address your feelings.
Naming your feelings also helps reduce the power they have over you and enables a greater sense of self-acceptance since you are not fighting or resisting them but are rather welcoming them and then letting them pass over time.
Writing down your feelings is a great way of expressing them and letting them out rather than keeping them bottled up or caged in. You might notice that journaling gives you a helpful emotional release as well as greater mental clarity.
If you find the task of journaling a little overwhelming, try to use some journal prompts as a guide or starting point - the pen--to--paper--process might flow a little more easily afterward.
In our daily lives, we have many responsibilities. Sometimes, we need to temporarily put aside our concerns and worries in order to handle other things that are happening - child care, elder care, family events, work, volunteer work, etc.
Compartmentalization is the idea that we can - metaphorically speaking - put our anxious thoughts and feelings in a box or up on a shelf in a safe place until we have the necessary time and emotional space to revisit them when we are able to.
Try to use this technique whenever you find you are juggling multiple responsibilities and don't have time to devote to your challenges in the current moment. Just knowing that you can come back to it in the near future can give you some relief and comfort.
Lastly, visualization is an excellent tool that can help you calm yourself down as you imagine a relaxing or calming scene. Think of your "happy place". What does it look like? Sound like? Feel like? What are you doing? What is happening around you?
Can you see yourself appearing relaxed? Do you notice that there is no tension in your body - that your jaw is unclenched, your eyebrows are not furrowed, and that your shoulders are not up by your ears?
Soak in this scene and notice if imagining your calm self in your happy place is helping you feel more relaxed right now wherever you are.
Feeling anxious can be exhausting, overwhelming, and, at times, debilitating in our everyday life. However, by using positive coping skills, you can release the grip that anxiety has over you, and approach your worries with confidence, and believe that you will be able to handle whatever life throws your way.
Wishing you well on your mental health journey.
Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist
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