Coping with Anxiety

todayTuesday 16 May

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It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme this year is Anxiety

Anxiety is usually a natural response to pressure, feeling afraid or threatened, which can show up in how we feel physically, mentally, and in how we behave. Anxiety can become a problem if we start worrying a lot about small stuff or relatively harmless situations, which can then start to interfere with our daily life or affect our relationships.

Here are my top three coping strategies tips for Managing Anxiety on a daily basis.

Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques:

Deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques are simple yet powerful ways to calm the body and mind.

Practice deep, slow breaths, focusing on inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth. This activates the body’s relaxation response and helps reduce anxiety symptoms.

Other relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or guided imagery, can also be beneficial.

Example breathing exercise to try: Also known as four-square breathing, box breathing is very simple to learn and practice. In fact, if you’ve ever noticed yourself inhaling and exhaling to the rhythm of a song, you’re already familiar with this type of paced breathing. It goes like this:

  • Inhale through your nose to a count of four.
    Hold the air in your lungs for a count of four.
    Exhale to a count of four.
    Hold your lungs empty for a four-count.

Grounding exercises are another anxiety coping skill that can help calm you in the moment.

They help shift your focus onto the physical environment and away from anxious thoughts.

  • Some grounding exercises you can try include:
    running your hands under cold water
    taking a cold shower
    focusing on your breathing
    You can also attempt to ground yourself by trying to focus on each of your senses in sequence. This grounding exercise is called the 5-4-3-2-1 technique:
    Name 5 things you can see.
    Name 4 things you can feel.
    Name 3 things you can hear.
    Name 2 things you can smell.
    Name 1 thing you can taste.
    Another similar technique for coping with anxiety is called the 3-3-3 rule. It involves the following steps:
    looking around and naming 3 things you can see
    listening to identify 3 sounds you can hear
    moving 3 parts of your body
Grounding exercises are another anxiety coping skill that can help calm you in the moment

Reframe unhelpful thoughts

Know what to look for…

It’s natural to feel worried every now and again, but our anxious thoughts can sometimes be unhelpful. It can be beneficial to step back, examine the evidence for your thoughts and explore other ways of looking at the situation.

Types of unhelpful thoughts include:

  • Always expecting the worst outcome from any situation.
    Ignoring the good sides of a situation and only focusing on the bad.
    Seeing things as either only good or only bad, with nothing in between (black and white thinking).
    Considering yourself the sole cause of negative situations.

Check your unhelpful thoughts…

Take a step back and examine the situation.

For example, you might be worried about an important task you have to do at work, and are convinced it will go wrong and everyone will think you’re a failure.

Rather than immediately accepting this thought and feeling even worse, take a moment to check it. Try asking yourself:

  • How likely is the outcome you’re worried about?
    Is there good evidence for it?
    Are there other explanations or possible outcomes?
    Is there good evidence for alternative ways of looking at the situation?
    What would you say to a friend if they were thinking this way?

Change them…

See if you can change the thought for a neutral or more positive one and reframe the situation.

For the work example, this could be something like: “I’m prepared. I’ve put a lot of work in and I’m going to do my best” or “I’ve been in this job for a while and completed lots of important tasks before, so no one will think I’m a failure.”

Other helpful tools that you can access online:

Online self-help CBT techniques – Every Mind Matters – NHS 

You could also contact Samaritans, call: 116 123 or email: jo@samaritans.org if you need someone to talk to.

Written by: ian

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