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  • Angela Sillas-Green

4 Practical Ways to Help Cope with Your Anxiety

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Have you ever had a repeated thought like, "There must be something wrong with me!" At the same time, you may have difficulty focusing, you may be fidgety, you may feel tingly, your chest may be tight, or you may have the sensation of running away. These are some of the signs of overwhelm, anxiety, or, worse, fear. This is a typical human response to an internal or external stimulus. Our brain takes the information, funnels it through the brain, and creates meaning from that information. Depending on our life experiences and biology, this information can trigger a stress response, signaling there is a threat. Yes, a simple to-do list, a conversation with a loved one, or a meeting with your co-workers can trigger this response. It’s our brain's way of protecting us from threats in our environment. These threats can be real or perceived, which means being in an accident or believing you will be in an accident. One is real, and the other is perceived. It's also important to note that not all anxiety is "bad". Anxiety can help you focus and be cautious. It's important to recognize this because the goal should not be to "get rid" of your anxiety but rather to manage it. There are times when it can protect you, and eliminating anxiety can also be harmful.

Let's summarize: Anxiety is a biological response to a real or perceived threat. It will impact your thoughts, sensations, and actions. Now, let's look at ways to manage it so it doesn't manage you.

1: Recognize your anxiety

Anxiety will usually show up in thoughts, sensations, and behaviors. Do you have a thought or thoughts that won't go away? Are they keeping you from focusing on other tasks? Is your heart beating faster? Do you feel frozen? Are you trembling? Are you responding with anger and feeling agitated? These are all signs that your stress response has been activated and you're experiencing a fight, flight, freeze, or faint response. Again, if you're not in danger, then note the signs so you can be more aware that your anxiety is trying to protect you.

2: Identify anxiety triggers

Next, what are people, places, or things that may trigger thoughts or sensations? Does someone raising their voice make you respond this way? Do you have a fear of dogs? Does going to the grocery store and being around people make you anxious or fearful? Often times, people have had past trauma or negative experiences, so your brain is going off of the past. It is helpful to know what may cause you to respond like this, so you can make a plan on how to cope and address it.

3: Develop strategies to manage anxiety

How can you overcome this? Incorporate mindfulness and identify coping strategies to return your internal response system to an optimal state. When identifying strategies, you want to consider how to calm or comfort yourself.

Some strategies include:

  • Deep breathing—when you're anxious and overwhelmed, you often breathe shallowly and too fast, so incorporating breathing can help you get enough oxygen and trigger your stress response to calm down. Practice by taking a deep breath in and slowly exhaling like you have a straw in your mouth. Do this at least three times, and you'll usually see a difference.

  • Listening to music—create a playlist that will help you relax and reset your state of mind. Notice what types of music or songs help you stay calm, and then have them ready next time you're overwhelmed.

  • Journaling or reading—sometimes we have thinking errors or get stuck with the types of thoughts that we are thinking. Journaling can help you get your thoughts down and clear your head. You can read books to help calm yourself or even read a book to address your anxiety, like "Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry" by Pittman and Karle.

  • Going for a walk—being outdoors and noticing your surroundings—can be very soothing and will likely help you reset and feel more present. Take a 15-minute stroll outside and see how you feel afterwards.

  • Sleep—you may not be getting enough sleep, or maybe your sleep is being disturbed without you realizing it. Sleep is a time for you to restore, so getting enough sleep and having proper sleep hygiene are important for your overall mental health.

  • Take a cold or warm bath—water can help change the temperature or soothe. Cold water will shock your response system, and warm water will soothe it.

4: Get help

If you've tried to manage your anxiety on your own but are finding that it's interfering with your relationships, work, school, or home, then it might be time to get help. Counseling, medication, supplements, online courses, or a combination of treatments can help you overcome anxiety.

In conclusion, overwhelm, anxiety, and fear can be managed. Develop skills and tools to support you, which will often be all that you need, but don't hesitate to get help if it's not getting better. Please leave a comment below or share with someone who could use this information.

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