Building a tool box to cope with anxiety
Anxiety is a symptom that we all experience at some point in our lives. However, when anxiety becomes overwhelming it can be crippling and can limit all your activities.
The pervasive nature of anxiety means that it is constantly present and often times leaves you feeling unable to enjoy anything in your life, let alone be present with your work or in your relationships. This can become frustrating and put a strain on you and the people around you.
However, anxiety does not have to rule your life. In essence, it is the fear of a particular outcome and the feeling that you will be unable to cope with this outcome. Often talking about your fears can help, and the key is to have a variety of tools that you can draw from whilst you are working on the causes of anxiety. Whilst therapeutic support is important, the reality is that you are still living with your symptoms and the toolbox can help you manage your world on a daily basis.
Managing the fear is important as this is the undercurrent of anxiety and often looking at certain thought patterns and beliefs of the world that you hold, can help you shift perspective and in turn loosen or remove the fear.
We often get caught in what is known as the “happiness trap.” Imagine a line. On one end is happiness and on the opposite is sadness. When we check in with ourselves and find that we are closer to the side of sadness we tend to judge and attempt to move closer to the happiness side. And the more we try to move, the more stuck we are. It is important not to judge where you are on the scale. Your tools can help shift the scale in a natural way.
When anxiety takes over, the fear is at its highest and in fact, at this point, the brain shuts down as a protective mechanism and thus it is harder to think clearly. The tools help you shift towards being calm so that you can think clearly again.
So if you suffer from anxiety mild or not, create a tool box in order to have resources at hand that can help you cope in between your therapy sessions. So let's start building your toolbox with the suggestions below:
It is important for the body to be grounded. The most effective way is to imagine roots growing from the soles of your feet all the way into the core of the earth. As you inhale do so from the core of the earth into the roots and into your feet and upward into your body. Exhale in the same way.
No one wants anxiety and the minute you feel it, it is easy to get caught up in why and how it’s affecting your life. Fighting it only makes it worse. The best thing you can do is accept it is there. You don’t have to like it. But you can simply accept its presence.
3. Non-judgmental attitude
When we feel anxiety we are consumed with the idea that we are not happy and get caught into the “happiness trap.” The more you try to become positive the more your anxiety increases. Don’t judge yourself for having it. Some days are better than others and a bad day is just that and has no bigger meaning.
4. Anchor in your environment
Your environment is filled with many ways to anchor. You can use these to shift into a more neutral space. Listening to music/your favourite song, being present in the moment such as feeling the water as you wash your hands, colours, scents, flowers and nature in general. Of course, there are many more and you may already have your favourites and use them.
There are of course many more tools available to help and I am sure some will work and others may not. This is why it’s important to have a variety of tools for different circumstances. Use your toolbox as often as you need, as there is no magic rule on how many times you can use it. The more you become familiar with it, the stronger the positive associations become.
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About Muneeza Khimji
I have been a therapist for 18 years and have experience helping people suffering from depression, anxiety, stress and trauma among other areas. I am in private practice and am based in two locations. I am passionate about healing and am honoured when I am chosen to be on a journey with someone.