Anxiety. We all have it. And if you don’t have it, just know that anxiety is routinely called “being nervous” or “worrying.” So….yeah. We all have it. Which means we all need to learn how to cope with anxiety, too.
Anxiety can range from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a diagnosis for patients suffering from severe – and typically chronic – anxiety, to simple everyday anxiety most humans experience. Just know that you do not have to have a diagnosis in order to have anxiety. I experience anxiety often – sometimes due to natural ups and downs from my cycle, sometimes due to stressful situations, and sometimes just because my brain is anxious for no reason.
If you think you have GAD, or severe anxiety, I strongly recommend reaching out to a trained psychiatrist to figure out a proactive gameplan. But if you’re struggling with life’s normal challenges, continue reading for our five easiest tips on how to cope with anxiety. Elise also recorded a video on this topic as part of her Five Tip Friday series, so be sure to check it out below!
Acknowledge the Anxiety
Whenever you are experiencing anxiety, take a second to acknowledge it. Label these thoughts to yourself as “anxious thoughts.” Understand that anxiety is normal, but that it’s not WHO you are. Meaning, yes, you are having these thoughts, but that’s your anxiety talking, not reality.
The more you can create distance between your anxiety and yourself, the more in control you’ll feel. You won’t feel as if you are turning against yourself or making your life harder than it needs to be. Instead, you’ll understand that sometimes these thoughts have a way of sneaking in, and the first step to banning them is to acknowledge that they exist in the first place.
Get familiar with your patterns. Identify when your anxious thoughts tend to pop up, and notice when they tend to leave as well. Stimuli that encourage anxious thoughts are typically called “triggers.” When you become more familiar with your triggers, you can either avoid them OR prepare for anxious thoughts whenever you have to be faced with them.
If you are spiraling with anxious thoughts, take a time out and practice your breathing. This is one of the quickest, cheapest tricks to calming down your anxious brain, and it’s definitely one of the easiest ways to cope with anxiety.
Follow these three easy steps:
Inhale deeply for four seconds. Hold your breath for four seconds. Exhale for eight seconds, or for as long as you can release. Continue until you feel less panicked.
Do this as soon as you recognize you are having anxious thoughts (see above). Once you’ve acknowledged you are in the throes of anxiety, it’s time to switch gears and focus on your breath.
Not only does breathing flush out your nervous system and allows you to reestablish equilibrium to cope with anxiety, but it also stabilizes your body and gives you the opportunity to practice mindfulness. When you’re focusing on your breathing, you’re not focusing on your triggers or other anxiety-provoking situations.
Two birds, one stone.
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Have a Good Cry Session
Seriously, let it all out.
Anxiety is a bitch. Feeling so worried about every possible outcome in front of you can feel paralyzing, hopeless, and extremely overwhelming. And while there are a ton of productive strategies to help avoid feeling like this in the future, one of the best ways to get rid of it in the present is by crying.
Crying allows you to shed the anxiety via your tear ducts and is the most efficient way to get past a feeling of hopelessness. I don’t know about you, but after crying, I’m typically over the situation. I’ve processed, gotten it all out, had a bodily reaction to it, and then felt so much better afterwards.
So don’t be afraid to cry in order to cope with your anxiety. It’s not a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s the brave thing to do. Crying forces you to confront your sadness head on, but as Frost said, sometimes the only way out is through.
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Practice Grounding Exercises
Anxiety has a funny way of making us feel completely disconnected from the world around us. We forget about the support we have. We forget about our best qualities. We forget about all of the things that make us feel so grateful.
So when you are in the midst of a big anxiety spiral, after you’re done breathing, try some grounding exercises.
Change up your scenery (take a step outside, take a shower, or go sit in a quiet room) and follow these steps:
Name five things you can see
Name four things you can touch
Name three things you can hear
Name two things you can smell
Name one thing you can taste OR one emotion you can feel.
Again, this is a nice distraction from the anxious thoughts AND it reminds you of where you are, how you are in control, and how you are TOTALLY safe.
When you are trying to cope with anxiety, it is paramount for you to try to take back control of your brain. Breathing and grounding yourself will get you there much, much faster.
You can do this.
Set the Mood
Once the worst has passed, it’s time to find comfort, joy, and relaxation in your current life. Take a hot shower, light a candle, put on fuzzy robe and socks, make some hot tea, whip out your essential oils (lavender, maybe?), play some calming music or meditations – or better yet – Solfeggio Healing Frequencies (Anxiety Relief 528 Hertz). There has actually been research proving that this type of music lowers cortisol levels. Cool, eh?
Point is, it’s time to unplug, unwind, and create a safe, warm environment for yourself. You have been through the ringer by getting yourself out of those anxious thoughts, and it’s time to take care of yourself and recuperate.
While we can’t always control our anxiety, we can control how we take care of ourselves. And we can try our best to cope with anxiety to the best of our ability. While routine self-care definitely may reduce anxiety, it’s also just a nice thing to do for ourselves after working so hard to get back to a neutral state of mind. Be kind to yourself as often as possible.