When anxiety comes to call, it can be a life stopping experience. At its worst, it has a deep impact on your body, your feelings and of course your mind. Here are some simple tips for how you can manage anxiety when you’re feeling anxious:
Just noticing is about bringing your anxiety to your attention, and treating it not as an infection or undesirable resident, but something that can be observed an an experience. In Psychosynthesis, we’d say that you have your anxiety and you are more than your anxiety, however powerful it might feel. The act of noticing, saying to yourself, yes this is anxiety I’m feeling, in itself helps you to create distance from it, to be less ‘in it’ and yet more aware of it. 2 Mindful breathing
Working with your breath is a great way to help manage anxiety. If you are experiencing a panic attack or feel frozen in your anxiety, bringing your attention to your breathing can really help. Take a few deep breaths first off and notice the air filling your lungs, the impact on your body as you take in the oxygen and let it out slowly. Then focus gently on the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body, feeling it as it comes in and leaves. Allow yourself to be just with that experience of breathing, as it can be very calming. Sometimes counting with the breath up to 10 gives you a structure to follow which can help keep a rhythm going. You can find out more here: https://thebuddhistcentre.com/text/mindfulness-breathing
3 Taking a walk in nature or spend time with a pet
I’ve written here before about the impact of nature on wellbeing. Research shows (and intuitively I imagine you might experience this) that nature has a deeply calming effect on heart rate, and stress levels. A walk in nature or time with animals or a pet all have that same beneficial potential. Or you might try gardening, which is a very grounding activity and recognised as a great support for mental health and wellbeing.
Being active in your body, is an excellent way to manage anxiety. Whether it’s a brisk walk round the block, time in the gym, cycling or whatever you enjoy, getting your heart rate up can be really beneficial for quelling anxiety. Being in the flow of exercise raises endorphins which give you a sense of wellbeing as well as giving you a different focus for your feelings and thoughts.
5 A focused activity such as singing, art, cooking
Talking of focus and getting in the flow, following a passion and getting immersed in an activity can be really helpful too. Singing alone or in a group for example, can bring a deep attention to your voice, your body as well as joy from the singing itself. Allowing yourself to bring full attention to an activity you like may help ground and settle anxiety and allow your attention to be focused away from anxiety.
What ways do you use to manage your anxiety? Do any of these ways resonate with you? Are there others you’d recommend? The important thing here is to use whatever works for you, of course, and to know that it is possible to have a different relationship with your anxiety.
By Matt Fox – Counselling in Totnes, Paignton and Newton Abbott www.mattfoxcounselling.co.uk
Photo by Dean licensed under creative commons