Anxiety is something that I didn’t experience much as a kid but now seems to be increasing in adulthood as issues like finances, career trajectories, relationship decisions, and other big transitions, processes, and milestones bring on uncertainty, stress, and emotional chaos. Anxiety is easy to feel and quick to spiral out of control. But the good news is that anxiety usually comes from within and can be prevented or at least somewhat mitigated by a few things. Here are some suggestions that others have given me in the past few months:
- Label what you are feeling – simply stating “this is anxiety” actually helps to stop the gears in your head from whirring out of control. To recognize your feelings and let yourself accept that you feel anxious is the first step in addressing your anxiety. If you brush it off and avoid accepting that what you’re feeling is indeed anxiety – it often only leads to further anxiety, panic, or guilt.
- Return to your breath – your body will not let your emotions spiral out of control into a full fledged panic attack if you control your breathing. Deep and slow breaths in and out remind your body to the bare biological necessities.
- Return to your body – remind yourself that you are IN your own body, and that you have control over your body. Go for a short walk – pat your knees, scrunch up and widen your face, wiggle around, & stretch your muscles. Think about your body and moving each limb as you breathe slowly and calmly.
- Let yourself think the thoughts you are trying to avoid thinking – it’s counterintuitive, but sometimes you just need to go down that dark path to realize that it’s really not all that scary.
- Remind yourself of the bigger picture. In anxious situations you often feel like you are going to die and the world is going to end. Stop yourself there and remember that unless you are physically in mortal danger – everything really WILL be ok and you will in fact probably not die right now – or anytime soon.
- Comfort yourself – what comforts you? A quick call to a friend or family member? A cuddle session with your dog? A text from your partner? A funny video? A note in your journal? Find something that’s comforting and grounding and focus completely on that (inter)action.
- Have compassion with yourself – we are human and feel a wide and deep range of emotions. (Some of us more often/deeply than others) Sometimes our brains play tricks on us, sometimes certain stimuli cause us to react in negative ways…and that’s ok – we’re only human.