Unfortunately, we don’t always have control over our anxiety. It tends to surface during the most inconvenient situations or plague us when we want it the least. The middle of a workday, at social gatherings, or before a big presentation are all common times anxiety manifests.
Unfortunately, we can’t always step away to call our therapist or take a yoga class. While you may be familiar with long-term anxiety management, these following five tips can help you cope in the moment:
1. Recognize your anxious thoughts
Many times, people who suffer from anxiety have trouble getting to the root of their stressors. But in order to cope with anxiety, you must first become aware of what exactly sets you on edge. If you want to appropriately cope with your anxiety, make discovering your anxieties your top priority. Carry a pad of paper with you, or even just make a note on your phone and document every situation that provokes anxiety. You may notice some “normal” anxious thoughts, such as work-induced stressed, but you’ll also become aware of much more. For instance, you may notice yourself triple checking a locked door, or worrying whether the iron was unplugged. But it’s only once you notice anxious thoughts that you can begin to make changes.
2. Practice deep breathing
Coping with anxiety by taking a few deep breaths probably sounds too good to be true…but it isn’t. When our minds are under stress, our bodies become stressed too. We naturally become physically tense which causes us to take shorter, quicker breaths. When you notice this happening, try to combat it by gaining control of your breath again. Pay attention as you deeply inhale for three seconds, followed by a five second exhale. Take note of where in your body the breath is coming and leaving from; this should help you stay grounded as you focus on nothing but your breath.
3. Live in the moment
Most of the time, anxiety surfaces when we’re too focused on the future or the past, and not enough on the current moment. Have you noticed yourself revisiting every conversation you had during a date? Or panicking about why your boss put that touch-base meeting on the calendar? The more energy you give to these thoughts, the more they will spiral. A good conversation can leave you wondering if you’ll ever get asked out again. A simple meeting can turn into worrying that you’ll get fired. Analyzing things that are out of your control will only worsen your anxiety. It’s important to remember that the past is in the past, so it should be left there. And the things that are out of our control need to be released because there’s nothing we can do about them. For the time being, focus on the concerns you do have control over, and take appropriate actions.
4. Seek distractions
If the situation allows, try distracting yourself from your anxiety – especially if there’s nothing you can do to change it. If you have a lot of anxious energy, you might as well do something productive with it. Use this opportunity to test out other healthy coping skills. Go for a walk or run, clean your house or do the laundry, maybe even call and catch up with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while.
5. Take care of yourself
The best way to manage anxiety is by taking preventative measures. When you take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally, you have a better chance of maintaining control of your anxiety. Eat well, drink enough water, exercise often, and try to sustain a stable sleep schedule. Don’t skip out on your doctor’s appointment or a session with your therapist just because you’re starting to feel better – chances are, they are the reason you are recovering.
Anxiety can feel debilitating, but it’s important to remember that feelings always pass. Keep this list of healthy coping skills and consider work with me if you sense your anxious feelings could use more attention. I’m here to help you find peace of mind.