PRACTICAL WAYS TO MANAGE ANXIETY It is more effective to practice these ideas and set them up when you are not feeling anxious. There is no guarantee that you are going to think clearly when you are anxious so some pre-planning will give you the tools you need. It may take time before these techniques work well for you so try not to give up on them.
Move your body. If you are sat down somewhere feeling increasingly anxious then get up and move to a different place or change the activity you are doing. Try a few stretches or some gentle exercise.
Breathing – slow your breathing down. Try the 3, 4, 5 technique: in for 3, hold for 4, out for 5. This will signal to your body that there is no threat so it can calm down.
Deep breathing – place your hand on your abdomen, breathe in for 4, hold for 4 and release for 4. Go slowly. You should be able to feel your abdomen rise and fall as you breathe.
Distraction – it might help to make a list of things that really work well for you as distractions so that you have a variety of ones to choose from. Distraction can take the form of reciting a poem or song you know off by heart or by counting things such as times tables or counting backwards from 100. My favourite distraction game is to pick a topic such as dog breeds and go through the alphabet: Afghan, Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, etc.
Visualise – pick your safe place and learn to visualise every detail of it so that you can go there in your imagination if you need to. It should be somewhere that is utterly safe and secure to you. You can also people it with those friends and/or family who you feel totally safe with.
Meditation – come up with your own ones or use Apps such as Calm or Headspace
Muscle relaxation. Work all around your body tensing your muscles for 10 seconds and then relaxing them. This is best done lying down. Pay particular attention of areas of tension in your body.
Grounding – sit down and place your feet flat on the floor. Notice how the floor supports your feet and the chair supports your seat bones and back. Try to feel yourself solidly into your body. Keep your eyes open as it is easier to stay connected to what is solidly around you. You can pair this up with noticing and anchoring (see below).
Anchoring – use a phrase such as, ‘It’s (insert time) on (insert day) and I am (insert location). I am safe.
Noticing – this takes you out of the instinctual fight/flight/freeze part of your brain into the noticing/rational part. Try the 54321 method:
5 things you see
4 you can hear
3 you can touch
2 you can smell
1 you can taste
Avoid Alter Adapt Accept Avoid – is there anything about this situation I can avoid or say no to? Alter – is there anything about this situation I can change (external changes)? Adapt – can I change how I feel/what I think about this situation (internal changes)? Accept – is this something I need to accept by:
Breathing into it
Sitting with the discomfort and expand my tolerance to anxiety
Sharing with someone
Experiencing - ‘I am stressed and that is my experience right now…’
Moving through/moving on/letting go
Learning from the situation
Challenging fearful thoughts. Use the Socratic questioning method:
Is my thought based on facts or feelings?
How would my best friend view this situation?
How likely is it that what I fear will come true?
What’s most likely to happen?
If my fear comes true, will it matter in a week/month/year?
Separating. Ask yourself whether the anxiety you are feeling is yours or whether you have picked it up from someone else. Sometimes other people’s anxiety rubs off on us or we ‘catch’ it from them. It is a good idea to put this kind of anxiety down or try to avoid accepting it in the first place. You can visualise what their anxiety looks like and visualise putting it down somewhere where it cannot affect you.
What would make this better? A good question to ask yourself even if the range of answers is limited in these circumstances!
Gratitude. At a quiet moment of the day, list 3 things that you are grateful for. You could write these down and put them in a jar or box. At anxious moments, you can take a few out to read and remind yourself of happy things.