Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT
FIND COPING SKILLS FOR ANXIETY THAT WORK FOR YOU
If you struggle with anxiety, it can be particularly worrisome to think about how exactly you’re going to manage your diagnosis. It can easily make you, well, anxious. Fortunately, there is a ton of literature on coping strategies for anxiety. Here, we are going to focus on some of the most effective coping skills for anxiety.
If you’ve not been diagnosed with anxiety but think you or a loved one might be suffering from it, this article should be beneficial for you. In addition, if you feel that you might struggle with anxiety, but you aren’t sure, consider taking this quiz.
One important thing to keep in mind when thinking about your anxiety (and there is a fair chance that you may do this a good amount) it is important to remember that you are not alone. Research has shown that nearly forty million Americans suffer from anxiety or just upwards of 18% of the overall population. With conditions like anxiety, it is easy to feel isolated. If this happens, remember that millions of people are experiencing something similar at the same time.
Luckily, because so many people suffer from anxiety, there is a lot of valuable literature on the best coping strategies. If you have anxiety, one thing you might hear over and over again is, “just try not to worry about it.” If only it were that simple! If you could just tell yourself not to worry, there wouldn’t be any need to treat anxiety.
Because anxiety isn’t something you can talk yourself out of easily, we have compiled some of the best anxiety coping mechanisms in this post.
COPING SKILLS YOU CAN TRY TODAY
Breathing itself is among the best practices for coping with anxiety. Practicing controlled breathing can be a big help. If your anxiety is feeling particularly bad, you may feel a panic attack coming on. Among other things, shallow, rapid breathing, or hyperventilation, can actually make things worse. Instead, it is important to practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing.
One effective method is 4-4-8 breathing. Breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold that breath in for another four counts, then slowly breathe out through your mouth for eight sustained counts.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
Remember to breathe deeply from your diaphragm. If you aren’t sure whether you’re breathing diaphragmatically or not, place your hand on your stomach. When you breathe in, you should feel your stomach area expanding. When you breathe out, you should feel your stomach area contracting, kind of like slowly letting the air out of a balloon.
At its core, mindfulness can be defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” In practice, mindfulness can look like a few different things.
- Keep A Journal
Whenever you have feelings of anxiety or any strong feelings, write them down. This helps to acknowledge, recognize, and respect the feelings you are experiencing. By keeping a detailed journal, you can also start identifying trends about what feelings you are having and when you have them.
Besides, you can’t let those feelings go until you acknowledge them without punishing yourself for having them. These anxious feelings are natural and human, but they don’t need to control you. Recognize them, and let them float away like a dissipating cloud.
Many people have found help in movements like stoicism to help them feel in control of their own lives and capable of managing their anxiety and negative feelings. Modern Stoics are encouraged to keep a journal, and at the end of each day, you write three things:
- What you did today that was good
- What you did today that was not good
- How you hope to make tomorrow better
These journals are not designed to make you punish yourself or feel guilty for the things you’ve done “wrong.” In fact, stoicism encourages people not to suffer over the past because it already happened, and it’s better to focus on things that you can control. These journals are designed to make you feel in control of your own life, conscious of your own decisions, and capable of change.
- Tend To Your Thought Garden
Another mindfulness technique is picturing your thoughts like a garden. Thoughts sprout up like plants and weeds, and you can’t control what sprouts. But you can decide which plants you water. Pay attention to good thoughts by watering those plants. Ignore the weeds, and eventually, they will dry up and die from lack of attention.
- Use An App (or turn off your phone)
Search for a few apps related to mindfulness that can help you keep your emotions in check. But if your phone is contributing to your anxiety, don’t be shy about turning it off and putting it away every once in a while. Try making some rules for yourself, such as not using your phone until noon or leaving your phone at home any time you go out with friends.
Meditation is simply the act of sitting in silence and honing your focus on specific aspects of the body. Maybe it’s focusing on the breath, or maybe the physical sensations that come with the meditation.
- Think Of Nothing
For some, the most effective form of meditation is sitting down quietly and thinking about nothing. This is particularly difficult, and you shouldn’t expect to do this your first time meditating. Part of the meditation process is acknowledging when your brain gets sidetracked and simply accepting that as part of the process. When you notice this happening, the important thing is that you point it out to yourself and try to get back on track. In other words, try to think of nothing, and when you notice you’re thinking of something, start over.
- Focus On The Five Senses
Another effective mediation technique, especially for people who struggle with anxiety, is to bring yourself into the present moment by listing the things you are experiencing. For example, name one thing you see, one thing you feel, one thing you taste, one thing you smell, and one thing you hear. Repeat that process until you notice yourself calming down. This can effectively prevent an anxiety attack, as it forces you to focus only on your immediate surroundings.
Look Out For Triggers
While it’s true that anxiety can really be brought on at any time and by nothing, in particular, people have certain triggers that tend to make their anxiety worse in many cases. Sometimes, triggers can be obvious physical things like drinking caffeine or alcohol, but sometimes they can be harder to identify.
Many triggers tend to be brought on by specific situations like talking with your boss, having a difficult conversation with your partner, or even talking to your in-laws. These are all totally normal things to feel anxious about, but it is important to note what is causing you to feel anxious to remember that in the future. Helping to identify the causes of anxiety is a big step to coping with your anxiety.
Go For A Walk
Taking a moment to step away, get outside, and get some fresh air is an invaluable skill for coping with anxiety.
While on your walk, you can even practice mindfulness. Try identifying all the objects you see on your walk. Make a note of all the smells you smell, the temperature of the air, and all the physical sensations you feel while you’re walking. Walks like this are refreshing and can help to calm your anxiety.
If you can’t take a walk, though, that’s okay. Really doing any kind of mundane activity can be helpful. For example, use washing the dishes as a chance to be in the moment. The act of washing dishes, mopping the floor, or doing other chores, is mindless enough that you can take time to focus on each step of the process and how it physically feels.
Living with anxiety isn’t easy. But try to remember that it doesn’t have to be difficult all the time. For most people living with anxiety, anxious feelings tend to come and go in waves.
When you’re going through a tough spell, try to remember a time when you didn’t feel so anxious to help get you through. Remember that you are loved. Many people on this earth love you and are rooting for you, even if you don’t know it. The world wants to see you succeed and do well; it doesn’t want to see you down, even if it might feel that way sometimes. Remember to lean on your support network–they are there to help you.
Everyone has concerns now and then. And it’s natural to be a little nervous in situations that involve risk. However, having an anxiety disorder is different. It can seriously affect your daily life and your ability to reach your long-term goals. One way to get an idea of whether you have an anxiety disorder is to take an anxiety test online. Once you know whether you have a significant problem, you can focus on finding out your unique answer to “What is good for anxiety?”
Things will get better. Try out some of the techniques we’ve outlined above, and see what works for you. The right answers and balance might not come all at once, but they are out there. You just have to look for them. Don’t let a lack of immediate success cause you to stop trying to work for solutions. You will find them. You just need to keep trying until you find what works. Living with anxiety can be hard, but it isn’t impossible, and it doesn’t define you.