Anxiety - five practical things to help
Anxiety is a normal healthy reaction, it can keep us safe. Yet, when people have an anxiety disorder they have to deal with excessive anxiety. Their anxiety will often distort or change their reality making them fear or recoil, with reactions out of proportion to the actual threat. These responses may be physical, mental or emotional and will be very real. The sufferer may be well aware that their reaction seems unreasonable, yet will feel powerless to change their reaction and feelings.
The great news is that everyone can take simple steps that can help them to control their anxiety.
1. Controlling your breathing makes a big difference. Take slow deep breaths, breath in for a count of four, hold it for a count of two and breathe out for a count of four. You are really trying to slow the breathing down and get yourself to breathe from your abdomen. It can be useful to take relaxation, yoga or meditation classes as each of these will help you to help control the breath and give you more control when you become anxious.
2. Anxiety and depression often give us unhelpful and unwanted thoughts. Very often these thoughts will dwell on negative or the worst possible outcomes. A great skill to develop is in challenging these thoughts. Ask yourself for the evidence, the facts (remembering that telepathy or mind-reading do not produce facts). Has this happened before? Is there a thought that better suits the facts?
3. Both of these first two ways of coping are very individual ways of coping. It may be that you would find a support group or to talk to someone would help you to feel better. Often talking about the problems help you to lessen the impact and can help you find a new perspective and ways forward.
4. It is particularly important that you have some self-compassion. It can be easy to round on yourself and fill your life with “should” and “would”, “must” and “what if”. The reality is you are fighting a difficult illness and you need to look after yourself and give yourself the time and space to recover. Notice the improvements you are making, however small you may feel they are.
5. Extending this idea of self-compassion further anxiety responds well to self-care. Do things that you enjoy, that you value in your life. It may be something simple like reading a book or having a coffee it may be something grander such as a day away. Similarly, you should build breaks into your day. Make sure you take breaks in the working day, even if only to walk around the block. Make sure you eat and so forth. All of these will help.
So there are practical sensible ways that we can challenge anxiety and make a difference, even before we pick up the phone to a counsellor. However, you can always call on a counsellor or your GP if you feel that things are not shifting and you need a little more help.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.