Five easy steps to help control anxiety

We all know the feeling of anxiety, the ‘nerves’ before an exam or the apprehension of walking down a dark street at night. For some anxiety becomes a much bigger foe, with the heightened state of almost constant worrying taking a toll on your health. The symptoms can be many and varied, it might be difficult to sleep at night, your heart may pound in your chest, people sweat or find it difficult to concentrate or worry they are losing their memory.

Anxiety is a physical and emotional response to the dangers that we perceive and although few of us have to face attacks by tigers and bears, anxiety still has its useful side in keeping us safe when we are in threatening situations. The problems start when because of how we are feeling the anxiety is triggered with things which really are not that threatening at all. Yet our anxiety makes us feel very uncomfortable and can ultimately make us panic. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can take charge and practice being in charge of your anxiety.

1. Learn to breathe. You may feel that you mastered this some time ago, but when we get anxious we start to take short shallow breaths. So you can counter that. Stop; take a deep breath, and breathe out slowly. Then breathe in again for the count of four, hold it for and breathe out for six. Make sure that you take a deep breath (from your diaphragm). Repeat this up to 10 times.

2. Learn to question and challenge your thoughts. Often people with anxiety will know that their thought process seems irrational. So question your thoughts, is that a realistic thought? If the worst were to happen what could I do? Who could help me? Is that thought true or does it just seem like that because I am feeling anxious?

3. It is important to realise that the brain is very good at twisting and manipulating thoughts when you are anxious. Usually, you will get to the worst possible outcome. If you are feeling anxious because your boss unexpectedly calls you into his office you rarely think he is going to praise you, rather you have decided you will be fired and out penniless on the street. Remember to challenge those thoughts.

4. Visualisation can help and it works well alongside relaxation. There are many ways that it can be used but we will focus on one. When you are relaxed somewhere you feel safe you can visualise a difficult situation you have yet to face or may face. Visualise yourself coping with the situation. Imagine that if something goes wrong rather like a video player you have a rewind button to go back and try again. See yourself succeeding. It often helps to observe the events with as little judgement about yourself as you can.

5. It is worth taking the time to get as much information on anxiety as you can. Know your enemy. By reading about it and how others cope you will quickly see how common the condition is and how with practice you can gain control. Some find that counselling helps them to get started and identify triggers or underlying causes, it can be beaten.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred) Counsellor

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.… Read more

Written by Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred) Counsellor

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