Dealing with anxiety
Learn to take life in your stride using simple anxiety management techniques
Most of us manage anxiety by distracting ourselves, either with TV, the internet, alcohol or many other things. This might be ok in the short term, but once the program is over, whatever was bothering us is usually still there in the form of racing thoughts, physical symptoms and generally feeling overwhelmed. The emotion associated with anxiety can take over and we have to learn how to step back and take our foot of the gas. These anxiety management tips and techniques are to get your started.
Anxiety management tips
- Breathe correctly. This is fundamental to anxiety management as it is changes in breathing, that cause most of the physical symptoms you experience.
How to breathe
Note 1. It is breathing out that encourages the relaxation response. Breathing in, stimulates your body – so forget about deep breathing. If you have not already done so, you can learn more about the relaxation response and symptoms of anxiety on this page.
Breathing technique for anxiety
- Breathe in normally, and count 1
- Breathe out, count 2
- Breathe in, count 3, and so on
Keep your attention focused on your breathing. If your mind wanders onto something else, bring your attention back to counting your breaths. Do this for 10 minutes, at least once per day, more if you can.
Develop some patience
- Stand up and lengthen your spine, feel your feet balancing your body. We are going to walk. Slowly.
- Lift your right leg, slowly, feel the bend at the knee and keep your balance. Stretch your leg out in an exaggerated way, and take a slow step forward. Pay attention to what you are doing. If your mind wanders, bring it back to slow walking.
- Repeat with your left leg.
- Repeat from beginning. As you are doing this, feel the sensations in your body, the wobbles, the impact with the ground beneath you.
Why are you doing this? To learn to pay attention to what you are doing, with no judgement, just to do something for the sake of it, with patience.
Practice doing nothing!
Why? Most of us feel we should be doing “something else.” When relaxing, our mind is full of things to do. Few things in life are urgent and need our attention immediately.
Let’s get started
In a moment, stop reading this page. Take your hand off the mouse, and rest your hands in your lap, and do nothing. Just for one or two minutes. No flicking to another page of this site or checking Facebook, just sit quietly. If you mind wanders, that’s ok, just bring your attention to what you are choosing to do. Feel the contact of your body on the chair, noises around you, and try not to judge them. Judging means, thinking they are stopping you from doing nothing, or thinking that you do not like the noise. Just let them be and do nothing for a minute or two.
Try it now
Did you feel impatient or expect something to happen? Or feel the urge to get up and do something else? That’s ok if you did, our mind is used to busyness. If you found it easy, try it again for a few moments longer.
Wherever you are the moment, pick an object or noise that you can hear, and just pay attention to it. Do not judge it in any way, just notice it. If your mind wanders, do not judge yourself, just bring your attention back to what you were doing.
By doing this, you are teaching yourself not to get hung up on distractions. This is an important skill as often when we are trying to do something, we get distracted easily.
Dealing with anxiety: anger
Pick your fights.
Next time you are upset with someone, make a deal with yourself that you will say nothing. Even if only for a moment. You will say nothing. Instead, try to think what you can do to make the situation better. Why? Normally we just react by defending our position or wanting to get our point across. In most instances, is it really that important? If not, let it go. The exercises on the page, will also help you develop the skill of letting go.
Stuck in your head with your thoughts?
Practice letting them come and go without analyzing every thought you have. This takes time. It is a skill. Our head can seem like a very busy place, but I want to show you how to practice letting go.
Think of it this way. Imagine the thoughts in your head are like cars zooming past. You do not have to follow everyone else and weave your way through the traffic. Stand back and watch the traffic. See it for what it is, cars, colors, noise and people whizzing past. Just watch it in your head. You do not have to get stressed and run quickly if you want to cross the road, you can just watch. Can you get a sense that just watching is a lot calmer than jumping in with every one else?
It’s the same with our thoughts. Just watch them. Just the way you do not have to weave frantically through the traffic, you do not have to analyze every thought in your head. Most of our thoughts are not that important, and many are just habitual. They are just thoughts. Let’s practice watching and letting go of thoughts.
Sit down, and choose one of the exercises above. Pay attention to what you are choosing to do. If your mind is full of thoughts, that is ok. Just watch them, almost like a bystander, and then bring your attention back to what it is you are doing.
These anxiety management tips on this page may seem simplistic, but believe it or not, they are the beginnings of dealing with anxiety. Most of us just react to practically everything in our life. There is very little choice or control, just reactions. By learning to take a step back and take your foot of the gas, you are teaching yourself how to exercise control in your life by choosing how to respond to the daily stresses that exist in modern life.
If you are not convinced, take a moment and think about how your head works. Do you really have control over the thoughts in your head. Are you ok with how your body feels right now? Do you sleep like a baby and wake up calm and looking forward to your day? If not, you might benefit from learning how to take control of your both your mind and body, instead of them controlling you.