If you have seen my Instagram Stories, you’d know what I had a mini anxiety attack when I was in Paris 2 days ago. So I asked Katie Morton, who has helped me cope with stress before, for 5 tips to cope with anxiety. And needless to say, she will help you guys just like she helped me….
If asked, most people would say that they know what anxiety is, and some may admit that they have felt anxious before. However, most people don’t know the difference between stress and anxiety, and it’s important to understand what is and what is not anxiety so you can get proper treatment.
Stress has an identifiable trigger, like the big presentation you have coming up at work, or that test you’re taking next week. Anxiety doesn’t have a cause all the time, we can be fine one minute and completely overcome with worry and upset the next. Therefore many people report that their anxiety or even panic attacks feel like they came out of nowhere.
Just like all other mental illnesses, there are many causes for anxiety disorders. The first of which is genetics. Yes, we can be genetically predisposed for an anxiety disorder, but genes in and of themselves do not cause an anxiety disorder. Research shows us that it’s not only the predisposition to anxiety but also the behavior we learn from being around someone with anxiety. Having a mother or father who constantly reminds us of how unsafe things are, or doesn’t let us do things we want to do because it’s “too dangerous” can lead us to have a fearful or avoidant outlook on life. Also, when parents demonstrate their own anxiety-ridden behavior we pick up on it and can then mimic their nervous or anxious actions.
Our parents can also set unreasonable goals or expectations for us. When parents have extremely high expectations it can leave us feeling so anxious about not meeting them that we can be frozen in fear. We may struggle to do some things at all, or even sabotage ourselves in the end so that we can say we didn’t actually finish or try.
Regardless of what causes anxiety symptoms for you, there are many things we can do to fight back and win! Here are five of my favorite anxiety ending tips!
1. Music: It has the ability to completely change our mood and can help calm us down when we are feeling anxious or on edge. Create a new relaxing playlist or simply select one on Google Play or Spotify!
2. A soothing repetitive task: I know this one sounds really odd, but knitting, coloring, or even doing the dishes is soothing to our system and can help calm us down!! However, if you were thinking that this is why you love playing candy crush for hours on end…that’s not the same. In order for this tip to work it has to be tactile (meaning we have to be able to touch it).
3. Progressive Relaxation: This is the process of tightening and releasing all of the muscles in your body one by one. You can start with your toes and slowly work your way up to the top of your head. It helps us be more aware of how we feel in our bodies, and release the tension we are experiencing. There are even some great instructive videos of progressive relaxation on YouTube!
4. Positive affirmations: Chances are, that if we are struggling with any level of anxiety, we don’t have very positive self-talk. Self-talk is those things you say to yourself without even realizing you’re doing it; it just sort of happens inside our head and judges our every move. Start to notice what you say to yourself, and write it down. These could be things like “I am never gonna be good at this” or “oh my god I am going to humiliate myself.” Whatever it is you say that’s negative or mean, I want you to take some time and argue against it. It sounds simple, but it can be really hard, but these questions can help get you started: What would be the opposite belief or idea?What’s a positive spin that I could put on this?What would my mother/father/best friend/loved one say back to this?Have I been in situations like this before? Did I survive?What is something that I can do well and safely?What are some things I am working on and do well?
5. 4 x 4 Breathing: This is the easiest breathing technique, and you can do it without drawing attention to yourself. You breathe in for four seconds, hold it for four seconds, and breathe out for four seconds. Do that four times and you have 4×4 breathing! It’s easy to remember and you can pretty much do it anywhere!
I hope those five tips are helpful! Since May is mental health month, try to start positive conversations with those around you and help bring awareness to mental illness. It affects 1 in 6 people worldwide, so know that you are not alone, and there is help and hope!