10 Tips from a Psychotherapist on dealing with Anxiety
1. Take a Step Back
Use the S.T.O.P. Technique:
Stop what you are doing and take a deep breath. Count for 4 seconds and breathe out for 4. Imagine any thoughts coming into your head as clouds, acknowledge them and let them float on by.
Take a step back
Try to take a step back from the situation. Either physically or mentally. Allow yourself a moment to process things.
Try to gain some perspective, what would a friend say if they were looking in on your situation? Try to see the situation as it is, don’t catastrophise. What’s the most likely outcome?
After completing the above, Proceed, with the knowledge you have gained.
2. Accept what you can’t control
You can only control what you can control. Make this your mantra. Consider what you can and can’t control about the situation that is making you anxious and accept that you can’t control everything.
Often when we are anxious, we try to control every aspect of our situation, even things that we cannot control. It can bring a sense of peace as we break our problems down into the parts that we can control and face them one by one.
3. Give yourself a break
What brings you joy? Or Peace? Or a sense of escape?
You can’t run away from your anxieties forever and avoidance isn’t necessarily the best course of action.
However, sometimes the root of our anxiety is that we can’t see the wood for the trees. Sometimes, doing something you enjoy for a little while can bring you back fresh to see a solution as you look at your problem in a new light.
Take a moment to consider what brings you joy do you have a hobby? Do you listen to podcasts or play a sport or enjoy reading or playing an instrument or perhaps you find an escape in Netflix or films or listening to music? Remember, it’s OK to take a break.
4. Celebrate little victories
Often coupled with anxiety is a sense that we need to strive for perfection. Whether that comes from imposter syndrome or the setting of expectations on ourselves that we can never meet. The thing is, no one is perfect and celebrating little victories, however small can help us move on from anxiety and allow us to manage our goals in an easier way.
Consider how you set goals and celebrate achievements? Do you have a tendency to set goals that are unachievable? Do you overlook minor achievements as failures or not enough? Do you have a tendency to get overwhelmed by the size of your goals?
Consider all of these and try, perhaps to break the goals up into bite-sized chunks. Celebrate each complete goal, find reasons to celebrate little victories, however small.
5. Don’t avoid sleep and exercise
Regular exercise can increase endorphins and improve brain chemistry. When we are anxious taking time out for some fresh air and a walk can do a world of good (www.healthline.com).
Being well rested is one of the best cures for combating anxiety (Anxiety.com). The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night to be well rested.
The article referenced at the end of this post gives details on how to optimise your sleep.
6. Separate work from Home
This is sometimes harder than it seems. I have worked with clients who experience workplace stress and anxiety and my answer is always to embrace any chance to go for a walk. Get up from your desk every 30- 40 minutes, even if that is a trip to the printer or to the bathroom. Make an excuse to lunch outside or in the colder months, somewhere other than your desk.
If you’re working from home, try your best to separate your work space from your living space. This isn’t always possible so think of ways you can change your space, what rituals can you put in place to switch off from work?
One big stressor is checking your work emails out with work hours.
7. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 Senses – Coping Technique
The senses exercise allows you to ground yourself, and distract yourself when you are feeling anxious. When you follow these steps and return to where you were, it allows you to feel more present and grounded to face what is ahead of you.
Step 1: Name 5 things you can see around you.
I usually ask clients to think about things around them that make them think of good memories, or that they find amusing or interesting and ignore things that might bring bad memories.
Step 2: Name and touch four things you can touch around you.
Try to find things that bring you comfort, a favourite Jumper, a blanket, things with interesting or different textures.
Step 3: Name three things you can hear.
Close your eyes and listen, can you hear cars outside or the whirring of computers? Maybe there’s birds or animals outside? Consider what you can hear around you and what the noises are.
If in a quiet space, consider what you might hear in your favourite place or a particularly peaceful place.
Step 4: Name two things you can smell.
Sometimes this isn’t possible. In this case have a think about your two favourite smells.
Step 5: Name one thing you can taste.
Again, perhaps thinking of the taste of your favourite food. Unless you’ve just eaten something or you’ve been drinking something and the taste is still in your mouth. Either way, consider the taste and how it makes you feel.
8. Download a Mindfulness/ relaxation app
There are hundreds of apps out there with guided meditations to help you ground yourself, make you feel less anxious and allow you to cope with anxiety day to day.
Some of my favourites are:
Some paywalls, some free content
Some paywalls, some free content
Smiling Mind (smilingmind.com.au)
All content free
Harmony does not endorse paying for any of these sites and recommends researching the sites available before making a decision.
9. Keep a journal or diary
Writing out your thoughts and feelings can be very useful for anxiety (verywellmind.com). This could be a physical diary, a photo diary for those more visually stimulated or a blog or private internet diary. You could even start a sound diary, what songs are you resonating with right now, is there a particular album that fits your mood today?
10. Talk to someone you trust and/ or your therapist
When I’m working with new clients, the first thing I explore with them is who they would speak to when I am not around. We explore how these conversations might go and how trusting and supportive the people around us can be.
Similarly counselling and psychotherapy companies are designed to be safe places to work through feelings of anxiety and explore the deeper causes of these feelings. If you’re interested in a free consultation session, you can contact us on the details at the bottom of the page or via the contact us page.
References (All accessed on 3/1/2021)