Anxiety: Ways to Heal & Cope
By: Clarice Stout, MA
Feeling anxious at times is a part of life and being anxious connects with our stress. Sometimes anxiety can manifest itself in different ways, and when our anxiety rises or feels out of control then we start to think of ourselves as an anxious person. The healthy goal with anxiety is for you to have control over your anxiety versus the anxiety having its control over you. There are many ways to cope and manage chronic anxiety, but the key is finding what coping tools work for you! Don’t get me wrong not all anxiety is bad, because we need a little bit of that stress and anxious feelings sometimes to keep us going, like for example walking across the street with a lot of cars may be a little nerve wracking because you are on alert to not get hit by a car. Without that slight alertness or anxiousness of getting across the street safely then that would lead us to being unmotivated and risk our safety, so that is one example of why having some anxious feelings is important for us at times.
On the other hand, when we are overcome with a lot of stress from different factors, we can sometimes begin to feel anxious more days than not, and sometimes anxiety reaches a level where we can feel panicky. From what I have learned by studying psychology, the mind, and the body is that when we feel like we are suffering from a lot of anxiety it is our body and mind trying to tell us something, and even in some ways trying to protect us. Depending on what the person is anxious about, sometimes this anxiety is telling us to slow down and check in with ourselves! When we experience a lot of anxiety for a prolonged period of time we may experience other symptoms like, fatigue, brain fog, irritability, feeling on edge like you want to burst, and sometimes people can experience psychical pain like in their chest, arms, muscles (such as muscle aches and pains and cramping). Honestly, anxiety can manifest itself and look and feel different for so many kinds of people. There are many different coping tools out there that can help ease this anxiety, but first I want to mention that even just talking about your anxiety can be super helpful, whether that be with a therapist, or someone you feel really comfortable with. At times we may or may not know where this anxiety is stemming from, but talking and processing it can be helpful because in doing that it can give ourselves some self-understanding and can possibly lead us to reasons why we do feel anxious.
Just talking about your anxiety is already a step forward in the right direction because that means you are aware, meaning you are aware the anxiety is there and the first step to change is awareness! As far as tools to help with decreasing anxiety there are a lot out there, and to name a few that I know have been helpful to other people including myself is being mindful of my mood and attitude, paced breathing (blowing bubbles), positive self-talk, and tapping. Now these are just some of my favorite tools that I use and share with others and I can describe them just a little to help, but overall, like I stated earlier there are many great tools out there to decrease stress and anxiety, and two of my best resources to look up these tools is on the internet and Pinterest!
Being mindful of your mood and attitude can help set your day in the right direction, especially if you feel like you’re going to have an anxious kind of day. Being mindful can definitely tie into the tool of positive self-talk. When anxiety is happening, some people will experience a lot of negative/anxious thoughts, and a way to decrease this is talking positively to yourself when this happens. When anxious feelings and thoughts start to arise what you can first do is be aware that these are the thoughts, and second you can challenge these thoughts with positive ones. For example, if the anxious thought is I feel like I am going to fail or I feel like I am going to go into panic attack mode, you can literally tell yourself and change that mindset to, “I am going to be okay” “I am not going to fail” “I will get through this” “I love myself enough to get through this feeling right now”. Even if you do not feel this positive way inside the more you say it the more you are able to calm yourself down and eventually you will start believing it and feeling it because your creating new healthy positive thoughts in your brain, but this does take time and practice though. The brain is a huge part of us and the thoughts we feed it do really make a difference with how we feel and act.
The other tool that helps is getting your breathing in control, by pacing your breathing. There are a lot of breathing tools, but one I find interesting and distracting is blowing bubbles. When we blow bubbles we are focused on slowing our breath down in order to make the bubbles appear, so in doing this you are concentrating on lowering that breathing and in turn your anxiety will lower as you lower your breathing to a more smoother pace. It is important to be mindful of your breathing! Tapping is another tool I have learned a while back and I am a firm believer in it. What this tool is, is when you find yourself in an anxious state what you can do is tap on the palm of your hand and state a positive mantra to help deescalate the anxious stress. For example, say work or school brings a lot of stress, or you’re going through a stressful transition in life, you can tap on your hand while stating your positive mantra. One of my positive mantras that I like and used while I am tapping on my palm is “even though I am feeling insecure with this new transition in school, I will be okay, because I love, forgive, and accept myself unconditionally”. You should keep tapping and saying your positive mantra as many times as it takes until you feel at ease and that anxiety is lowered. The positive mantra can be whatever it is you want it to be, it can also just be a positive word you like. The reason for the tapping part with the positive mantra is a way for your mind to be distracted, and there is research out there that when we do this kind of tapping it is creating new pulses to/in our brain, so our brain believes these relieving positive mantras. This tool is called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping, so it is worth looking up to read a little bit more of it, as it is actually pretty cool!
EFT is also another way of treating pains in the body for some people and treating emotional distress, and people who use this tool feel and believe that tapping the body can create a form of balance in your energy system (Anthony, 2017). Again, when anxiety comes around it is really about finding what tools work for you, whether that be music, gym, walking, self-talk, tapping, journaling, art, breathing tools, meditation, etc. Overall a good goal with working on anxiety, as stated earlier is overcoming the anxiety in healthy ways instead of that pesky anxiety overcoming you. Overcoming anxiety is doable, although it does take some work, but all in all you definitely can change and feel less anxious, and I hope in reading this it has provided a little bit of insight that anxiety and stress is manageable.
Written by: Clarice Stout, MA.
Anthony, K. (2017). What Is EFT Tapping? 5-Step Technique for Anxiety Relief. [online]
Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/eft-tapping [Accessed 21 Sep. 2019].