1. Talk to someone you trust
The benefits of speaking with a friend or family member about your anxiety are that you may find someone close to you that experiences the same things you do. This can help you feel less alone and more understood. Maybe they are even able to share tips with you that have worked for them. But what if this isn’t the case? What if they don’t understand? What if they have never had to battle with anxiety? When family and friends don’t understand or don’t know how to be helpful, it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional. Mental health professionals can teach you skills, listen to you without judgment or expectations and help you listen to yourself. Therapists are objective and non-judgmental, their personal beliefs and opinions are not shared in sessions, which fosters an environment where you can freely share anything that comes to mind.
2. Take care of your physical health
I know, I know, you’ve heard this a million times! Well here is one million and one! I have heard from many clients that working out is the only time their brain isn’t focusing on all the other things they are worried about. They are simply focusing on the exact task at hand and this gives them relief. Working out can be ANYTHING, walking, running, swimming, dancing, even deep cleaning your home can be exercise, make it fun. Recruit a friend, include your kids or involve your pet!
Go to the doctor
I’ve had clients who have psychical manifestations of their mental health and clients who have had medical issues that they mistook for anxiety or depression. The only way to find out what is causing your psychical symptoms is to have your doctor examine you.
3. Stop avoiding
Remember when you were younger and your parents told you not to do something? You thought it was silly, so you did it anyway, mostly just because they told you not to. The same concept applies to your thoughts. If you keep telling yourself not to think about something, suddenly you can’t think of anything BUT what is forbidden. So instead, tell yourself you can think of it for 5 or 10 minutes. Set a timer, and when the timer goes off, your thoughts are done. Sometimes avoiding thoughts just make you want to think them more.
4. Test reality
Ask yourself the following questions over and over until you run out of answers. “what’s the worst-case scenario, how likely is this to happen and what will I do if this happens?”
Example: I am very anxious about an upcoming exam.
What’s the worst-case scenario? – I will fail
What will happen if you fail the exam? – I will fail the class.
What will happen if you fail the class? – I will have to take it again.
How likely is this to happen? – I’ve been studying so it’s not likely I will completely fail, I may not get the grade I want.
What will you do if you do fail the class and must take it again? –
I will have to spend more time and money in school.
Can you think of any positives of this? – It will be easier the second time around.
5. Use mindfulness techniques
Sit for 3 minutes with a YouTube video for mindfulness. Here is one I have found helpful, but there are many options out there, so find what works best for you. Do this every day or a few times per week and gradually build up to 5, 10 even 15 minutes, however long you can.
If meditation isn’t your thing then focus on your 5 senses. When you start to feel really overwhelmed, this is a great trick that you can utilize anywhere. Focus on one thing you can see, hear, smell, touch and when applicable, taste. This helps ground you and bring you to the present moment and get out of your head.