Coping with Anxiety – 10 Methods that work for me
I’m writing this because I suffer from depression and the root cause of this is anxiety, ergo to manage my depression I had to learn coping techniques for my anxiety. (Okay, I don’t mean regular, run-of-the-mill anxiety – this can actually be quite useful! I mean Chronic Anxiety that negatively affects your everyday life). The following is a list of things that work well for me, and maybe will help you to.
1) Break Big Tasks down into small ones
For me this largely translates into making ‘To Do’ Lists, but it might use individual, small stages of a task rather than the entire thing that need ticking off. Particularly with depressions doing things is hard & tasks seem overwhelming, but the truth is anyone will find taking a single step a lot easier than climbing a mountain.
Psychologically how you look at a problem can make a big difference. For example I may not be able to deal with ‘Cleaning the House’ but I may be able to ’empty to bin.’ Buoyed by my success then I may attempt ‘picking clothes up off the floor’ and so on. Et voila! I may actually discover I’ve actually cleaned the house (a task which, taken in its entirety I could not face, but was manageable in small, bite-size pieces)!
Big Tasks = Anxiety
Small Tasks = Okay
Can’t do something big? Do a small piece of it. Yes; just that one thing. You can manage just that. It’s just a little thing. Maybe another thing afterwards but only if you are up for it. Just try to do a small thing, then you’ll at least have achieved something. Then, who knows? The small things add up. Perhaps you’ll do more than you believed yourself capable of.
2) Avoid Anxiety Triggers
Ask yourself what situations/places/people make you anxious. Do you really have to deal with them? If the answer to that question is no, then don’t.
Okay, sometimes it is necessary to deal with stressful situations and they cannot be avoided, but there is no point in putting yourself through additional, unnecessary stress. For some it will be as simple as avoiding those friends whose idea of conversation is ’20 Questions’, for others it may be finding a new job. FYI high-stress jobs and anxiety disorder are generally a bad combination!
Put yourself first & make your mental health a priority. It is important.
3) Quickly put and end to Unresolved Conflicts
Avoidance isn’t always the answer. Personally I can’t stand conflicts, but sometimes they are unavoidable and need to happen. The only thing worse than an argument is one that does not reach resolution, causing ongoing stress and tension. If you are prone to anxiety then you will tend to worry about it whereas most people will have forgotten about it. For you, however, it preys on your mind on a day to day basis. This ongoing anxiety is another pressure in addition to the regular stresses and strains of everyday life. You need to get rid of it – and fast!
It may be difficult and painful but it is worth confronting whoever you had the conflict with and ending it one way or another. It will be worth it. After you are done that background anxiety will be gone and you will be able to cope far better. You will have more peace of mind.
It’s like ripping a plaster off – just do it! Experience the relief afterwards.
(Learning about Assertiveness or taking an Assertiveness course can really help with this kind of thing).
4) Let Go of Negative Thoughts
You probably have a lot of negative thoughts or ‘fear’ thoughts. Learn to recognise these thoughts and when you are going over and over something in your mind? Stop. Let it go. Tell yourself it doesn’t matter – you may well feel it really matters but it is most likely you are worrying over something unimportant and trivial.
Be determined and put a stop to that thought process! F*** it! All of it!
Personally I say ‘Let it go’ (funnily enough I came up with this before Frozen, but keeping that song in mind is likely no bad thing) and imagine said thoughts being carried away like a leaf on the wind. Now take a deep breath and get on with your life.
5) Remember: You Are In Control
Okay – it’s a panic situation. You are not sure you can deal with this! Your brain is in Fight or Flight mode.
Remember – you are the Boss of all of this. What do YOU want to do? Do you want to walk out? That’s probably a good idea. Give yourself some space. Get your head together. Or perhaps you’ve decided you’re actually okay for now. You are going to stay and deal with it. Well done! Congratulate yourself. Relax your muscles, slow your breathing; you are in control.
The important thing here is to consciously make a decision. Do not be ruled by fear. Remember you are in the drivers seat. Also, if you’re not too confident in your decision, you can ask yourself again later and have the option to change your mind. Often anxiety is caused by feeling out of control. It is very good to remind yourself that you have options. You are not trapped – you can get out of the situation if you need to. If you are staying it is because YOU have chosen to.
6) Physically Relax
To be honest, anxiety is as much a physical process as a mental one. The brain releases hormone & adrenaline that make your heart beat faster. You need to tell it to switch that stuff off.
So try to relax your body even if you can’t relax your mind. Even faking it will do the job! Deliberately relax your muscles and slow your breathing. Take your time. Gradually your heart rate will go down and your body will stop ordering that supply of adrenaline.
7) Scare Yourself, but in a Controlled Way
I think this is one of the methods they use in therapy. Again the whole ‘being in control’ thing is important. You are doing this scary thing because YOU have CHOSEN to do it, but there should be an escape route if necessary.
Personally I think of it as a ‘reality check’ because often anticipation is worse than the actual thing you fear! One of the things I’ve done is get up on stage because I was stressing out anticipating a job interview. It put things in perspective. Another thing is that familiarity breeds contempt so if you do something a bunch of times you will become desensitized to it. Perhaps it terrified you at first but you’ve done it so many times now it’s kinda mundane.
8) Do Things That Make You Happy
Happiness is good for you! It is medicine! Take lots of it! Laughing, smiling and generally enjoying yourself help you relax. Endorphins, man! It could be your negative-thinking is telling you you don’t deserve it but to hell with that! You need it.
9) Get a Pet (if you are a pet person)
Sometimes these are called ‘therapy animals.’ For me taking care of my pets (I have two guinea pigs) helps me take care of myself. Stroking them is also very relaxing, calming and enjoyable. They are also great to talk to because they are marvelous listeners and will never reveal your secrets! Animals work wonders.
10) Take Available Help
This may be friends offering to help you, or professional help like counselling. It can be hard to get though. If there’s a waiting list put your name on it. I’ve been to counselling and found it really good (it does not mean you are ‘nuts’) and it helped me discover all the coping techniques you read here and implement them to make my life better. It can be tempting to hide what you are going through and struggle through on your own, but that is ‘nuts’. If you’re computer isn’t working you go to an expert and get it fixed, right? If you you break your leg you don’t set it yourself. It is okay to get help from people.