The first thing is to understand that most of us will suffer from anxiety at some time in our lives. Anxiety can be a ‘feeling’ or a ‘mood’ with no obvious cause. It is unlike stress which comes and goes depending on what’s happening in our lives. For example, relationship issues, illness or a house move can all cause stress. Anxiety is different.
This lack of a known trigger for anxiety can in itself be very upsetting and clients will say ‘I don’t know why I’m like this’ or ‘I just don’t feel like myself.’
Anxiety can be the ‘butterfly’ feeling in your stomach, the ‘lump’ in your throat, the ‘thumping’ in your chest. We are often aware of it as a physical sensation in our body.
Here are ten steps to help deal with anxiety:
Step 1: Accept it, this is how you feel.
Step 2: Reassure yourself, you have not ‘brought’ this on yourself, this is a normal response to things that are building up in your life.
Step 3: Learn how to deal with the here and now. Learning how to breath is a good place to start. You may think ‘I know how to breathe’ but many of us breathe very shallowly and don’t take in enough oxygen and this can make us light headed and tired. If you practice this every day you will be more able to breathe in this way at the point of rising anxiety.
- Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it. Imagine you are inflating a balloon in your abdomen.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to be aware of the breath as it flutters around your nostrils and as it leaves your mouth.
- Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from one to five. You may not be able to reach five at first.
- Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from one to five again, if you find this helpful.
- Keep doing this for three to five minutes.
Step 4: Try grounding yourself in the present so that you focus on an object or task you are doing. Take in all of the detail, the colour, shape, smell, size, location – the aim is to distract you from the ‘anxious’ feeling, because the more attention that you give it, the more you will notice it and the bigger it will become.
Step 5: If you have access to something that makes you laugh e.g. a video, then use it. You cannot be anxious when you are laughing.
Step 6: Practice laughing as an exercise in itself. At first you have to force it, but it does become contagious. You then start to laugh naturally at the ridiculousness of what you are doing!
Step 7: Download a Mindfulness Meditation app - there are many that are free. Mindfulness is a real challenge at first, especially if you are more used to having constant thoughts flitting in and out of your mind. However, be patient and with time it will become easier. At first, it can be difficult to ‘switch off’ for even a minute. Like an athlete, the more you train the better you will become.
Step 8: Try and get outside every day. The more you see the ‘bigger picture’ the less likely you are to become overwhelmed with the smaller things.
Step 9: Remind yourself that this will pass.
Step 10: Using two or three fingers tap on the karate chop point of your other hand with a medium to firm pressure. As you tap say to yourself ‘Even though I am feeling anxious, I choose to feel calm and content.’ Tap for several minutes. You can ‘tap’ before you go to bed and when you wake saying something like ‘Even though I may feel some anxiety I choose to let it go and be content today.’
If you have deeper issues you may need further help to find what works for you. People with anxiety respond really well to EFT (Tapping) and Hypnotherapy, but in the first instance the above steps may well be enough. Why not give them a try?