‘Why don’t you just try relaxing’ is probably the worst thing one can say to someone trying to combat an anxiety attack.
If relaxing and managing anxiety were as easy as going for a walk or doing square breathing, we’d be a planet of zen masters and professional chillers.
Alas, it ain’t so.
Whether the anxiety you experience is confined to a single event or circumstance, or you feel it for prolonged amounts of time and situations, wouldn’t it be good to have an easy go-to guide to consult in crisis, that actually worked?
Great! Cause I wrote one 🙂
1. Change location
This might seem strange, but go with it for a minute. Changing your physical state allows a few different things to happen: it allows you to address posture, tension, erratic breathing, pains and aches, and it physically takes you away from the place you are experiencing your anxiety in.
A study on how body and mind work together also shows that they heal and fight together. When you go from place A to place B, you engage your brain to do a few important tasks, like using the stairs, or crossing the road, or taking in a new scenery. What this means is that, in the fight to combat anxiety, your brain gets a much needed break, and focuses on not getting run over by a truck.
2. Fight the moment… with a pen!
Nothing takes a baddie down like good evidence, and anxiety is no different. Saying things like: I’m a complete failure or Nobody gets me just creates limiting beliefs that aren’t very productive. Take a pen and break the thought down in Who, What, Where, When or Which, by determining what you have said actually means. Let’s try it together, shall we?
Everything (what): A project at work that I was not fully prepared for
Turns to shit (how): I submitted the work late resulting in a negative note from the client
Everyone (who): my colleague John, who was working with me
Hates me (how): has expressed his frustration at the outcome
So now, instead of ‘Everything I touch turns to shit and everyone hates me’, you have ‘ I submitted work late for a project that I was not fully prepared for, and my colleague John has expressed his frustration’.
Much more manageable, right?
3. Recolour the scene
Here’s a groundbreaking thought: would anxiety be anxiety… if it weren’t called anxiety?
The short answer is: sure – you’d experience the same feelings of panic or helplessness even if you called it potato. However, with the word ‘anxiety’ come a host of connotation and characteristics that influence how your brain responds, and your brain tends to support your expectations.
A good tip to combat anxiety is to try calling it something that is not so weighted, like ‘momentary self-exploration’ or ‘curiosity hour’ or ‘oranges and bananas’ and see if you can recolour a historically negative experience with something decidedly more removed. Plus, curiosity hour sounds so much more modern!
4. Change the situation, or the way you experience the situation
As the saying goes: if you don’t like where you are, move! You are not a tree.
Take the same approach for a situation that causes you anxiety: if it’s in your power to change it or get out of it, then do so.
If it’s not in your power to do so right now, then approach it through a different angle. Could it benefit you in any way? Can you find a way to detach yourself from it? Can you grow through it?
5. What would your best self do?
There is a reason why ‘living your best life’ has become the hero phrase we all needed in 2020. This one is ALL👏ABOUT👏YOU👏.
Think of a time when you kicked ass, when you felt confident, prepared, strong, good-looking. That person had guts, self-esteem and poise.
NOW. Would that person let him or herself be ruled by negative emotions? By feelings of insecurity and fear? I doubt it. That person would be empowered to say ‘this moment sucks, but it’s part of life, and I’m going to do my very best to go through it with grace and strength’