Some of you have read my past blog post when I tried “free” Wix. It was such a pretty site but a no-go for my entrepreneur spirit that wants to make a greater impact in our community and not be limited by my website. I'm stating this because I'm recycling a blog post from then as it is super relevant right now. I was thinking this as I noticed my own anxiety started to shoot through the roof on Friday evening. I allowed myself to get sucked into the news and Facebook, not helpful people! The rest of this weekend, I have been on social media minimally but primarily getting my updates on COVID-19 through CDC and our local health department. To poke the bear a bit, my son has been coughing with a fever all weekend. My spouse took him to Kaiser and he's fine with a cold, but I did have to take a few deep breathes and had to practice what I so easily preach!
How To Make Friends With Your Anxiety To Be Your Best Self!
Accepting What We Can't Control
1. Accept your anxious feelings – the more you fight anxiety, the stronger it can get! Anxiety comes and goes, (episodic). It is a survival mechanism that has allowed our species to survive harsh environmental conditions. Try not to “worry” about your worry! Yes, this is easier said than done. Try to remember that worry doesn't solve anything and won't prevent bad stuff from happening. Wash your hands and help someone else to distract yourself.
2.Learn about self-awareness. The more you understand how you are triggered, how you think about your triggers, and how you typically respond emotionally, behaviorally, as well as physiologically. Utilizing the ABC Technique is great for this: A= Activating Event or “trigger”; B= Belief or your automatic thoughts; C= Consequences (emotionally, behaviorally, and physiologically). Example: A=Being late for work due to traffic; B=Nothing ever goes right for me, I'm going to be fired!; C=Anxious (emotion), yelling in my car (behavior), shoulders tense, sweating, and panic settles in (physiological responses). Try the ABC technique for 2 weeks or more and you will likely start to see your personal patterns. Self-awareness is eye opening!
Sharpen Your Analytical Tools
3. Learn how to analyze your beliefs. My favorite analytical tools include: objective, utility, consistency, and logical analyses. There isn't enough space here to do these tools justice, but I will do a quick intro. When you attempt to consider if your thoughts or beliefs are objective, you pretend to take your belief to a judge or jury. Where is your evidence? Do you consistently believe this about yourself? Would you consistently believe this negative thought if your best friend was in your shoes? Utility analysis is figuring out if your negative belief is useful to you. Does your belief help or harm your relationships with others? Does your belief make you feel better or worse? How about reaching your goals or does it get in your way? I'm a bad ass at this stuff!
Stop! How To Get Punched By A Marine (this didn't happen)
4. The thought stopping technique is a bit old school but still effective for many. One time I was teaching this technique in group therapy when I was working with the Marines in Japan. I knew one of them had an intense anger problem so I purposely sat very closely to him, (the opposite what normal people would do). He knew something was up and he followed my cue. The basic idea with this is that you close your eyes and conjure up events that triggered negative beliefs about yourself. You use your five senses to recall smells, sounds, what you see and what you touch. You then think your negative thoughts over and over again until your therapist yells “stop!!” You then pick up your positive affirmations or counter cards and state your healthy beliefs over and over. The marine tightened up his fist but I was leaning into him gently to ground him, was able to calm him with a soft voice and my presence. It worked. This works because it is impossible to hold a negative thought about yourself if you are startled. It distracts you. Perfect opportunity to say to yourself, “Enough of this self criticism, (or something more colorful)”. Now is the time to feed yourself affirmations about your true worth and talents. Helpful examples include: “I am okay”, “I am calm”, “I am getting better and better”, “I am worthy of love”, etc.
Caution – don't go around screaming “stop” when you have a negative thought. Don't blame me if you get involuntary hospitalized. The awesome news is that you can practice it in your head. I still do this technique whenever I ruminate on a mistake. I apologize where needed and work on having more grace with myself. Try it!
Steps 5, 6, 7, & 8 Are Related… Relaxation Skills To Loosen Up
5. Just Breathe: Deep breathing, yogi breathing, square breathing, etc. Watch YouTube to make sure you are doing it correctly. Please don't expect to do it once and think you are done. Deep breathing is more effective when done consistently just like anything else. Try 7-10 cycles to really benefit. Deep breathing resets are parasympathetic nervous system and reduces both emotional as well as physical tension.
6. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Please google it and practice. Research supports that once our bodies are fully trained on this technique, our bodies will fight to stay relaxed instead of getting tense. Our bodies are amazing! We can train to run marathons or we can train to be Zen or better yet, we can train our bodies to do both. Did you see that? I just zipped past by you, I run that fast.
7. Visualization: Picture your favorite, perfect place where you are free from worry. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? Are you hot or cold? Are you on top of a mountain or lying on the beach? Feel the sun or a breeze or both? Try feeling the sun on every inch of your body. The more open minded you are, the warmer you will be! Try an app on your phone every night for a week to see how you feel. You may be amazed!
8. Meditation: The best of the best. People who consistently meditate are the most relaxed humans in the world. Think of monks at a monastery. Since most of us may not have plans to leave for Tibet soon, (damn travel restrictions), there is still a way to practice in the comfort of your home. My favorite app is Head Space. You can subscribe for a free trial and then there is a small monthly charge afterwards but I promise you, Andy is worth it! He has monk experience. His voice is smoothing and both my male and female clients benefit from his help.
I have a ton more to say on this topic since I've been a therapist for a couple of decades. I will be working on handouts for the resource section of my site for you to utilize. For anyone needing more help now, please email me at Karen@healthrivedream.com. We can discuss teletherapy if you live in Virginia or coaching sessions if you live elsewhere. I work full time thus my availability is limited to weekends and a few weeknights per week.
Disclaimer: My post would have been more humorous but my teen daughter Lena is Editor and she's been slightly anxious. Who knows, maybe she will practice what her mama preaches one day. 😉