7 Ways to Cope with Anxiety
Almost everyone experiences some form of anxiety when exposed to significant stress or threat. Individuals who have an anxiety disorder, however, experience anxious episodes frequently, and often in the absence of realistic stimulus.
Those who experience anxiety attacks will tell you they can strike at random, feel awful, are vivid and frightening. There are many physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms of anxiety attacks combining to create an intense period of fear or feelings of doom, lasting anywhere from an instant to several minutes.
While this is by no means exhaustive, here is a quick list of 7 strategies you might find helpful in coping with and working through anxious episodes:
1. Know your triggers
Everyone’s experience of anxiety is unique. Recognizing what triggers your anxious episodes can be helpful. Maybe things which are common stressors, such as social anxiety, or deadline anxiety, or specific fears or phobias are anxiety prompts for you. Perhaps it’s more general—anxiety over a variety of situations or in various settings. What sets your anxiety in motion? If you’re able to identify triggers, you may be able to strategize in advance to meet them, or at least be better able to cognitively recognize when it happens, “I know what prompted this.”
Knowing what triggers your anxiety will allow you to prepare to some extent. All the points that follow can fall into this category or preparing. If you know, for instance, that travel is an intense trigger, you can bring along things to distract you, put your mind in other places, on other things. You can pack a few familiar things to hold on to, to focus on, to help ground you on the way to and in your new setting.
3. Learn to recognize the signs of your own panic
Different than recognizing triggers, knowing your signs and symptoms—perhaps it includes a racing heartbeat, the flushing of your face, confusion—can be a helpful tool to challenge your emotional anxious response. You can start an inner dialogue: “I see what this is! That heartbeat—it’s anxiety. I’m not having a heart-attack. I’ve been here before. I remember this.”
Anyone who has ever talked about anxiety will tell you to breathe, and it seems pretty straightforward. But during an anxiety attack we can lose sight of the obvious. Try to concentrate on your breathing. Listen to the air flowing in and out of your body. Focus on it. Take some deep breaths. Deep breathing can calm your body and burn off some of the adrenaline that the anxiety has released in your brain. Inhale through your nose, exhale out your mouth. Slow it down. Inhale, count to five, exhale.
5. Ground yourself
Perhaps part of your planning, mentioned earlier—have something physical you can touch. Grounding yourself in what’s real can be helpful when you’re having an anxiety attack. Your sense of touch—rubbing something textured like carpet, wood, a stone with your hands, or perhaps caressing a pet can relieve some of anxiety’s impact. Maybe grounding yourself in nature or in a routine—such as exercise—will be helpful. Develop strategies that will help ground you and implement them.
6. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 method
When you feel overwhelmed, or distressed, try this little game to bring you back to your physical senses: Spend a few moments concentrating on your immediate surroundings. Identify:
- 5 things that you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste.
7. Reach out
It sounds simple but reaching out is one of the most important strategies for coping with all of life’s challenges—including anxiety. Reaching out is important because the people in our lives may not always know what we need. You have chosen specific people to be part of your circle for a reason. They are here to support you just like you support them. And it is okay to need help. Anxiety is a lot more manageable when we are connected to others.
If you or someone you love suffers, take heart—we understand and we’re here to help.
Anxiety attacks and their symptoms can be successfully treated with the right information, help, and support. With treatment, many people get back to a fulfilling life.
Let us help you take back your life. At Honey Lake Clinic, our experienced doctors and staff strongly believe that faith-based treatment, encompassing spiritual, physical and mental health, will provide you with the long-lasting tools and knowledge to find happiness and wholeness again.