Managing Anxiety

I can recall the first time I had an anxiety attack, I was in full-on panic mode. I was so stressed out at the time, it felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I just remember my chest was hurting so bad I thought I was having a heart attack. I called my mom and she quickly said: “calm down, its probably just anxiety.” I responded snapping back “I don’t even have anxiety”. She went on to tell me to breathe and try to relax blah blah blah. But I will say it got me thinking; how many times have I woke up in the middle of the night and been unable to go back to sleep because I was worried about something. How many times have I been so stressed about something that I cause myself headaches or the above-mentioned chest pain. So I, of course, went to Dr. Google to find out a little more about this thing called anxiety. Fast forward to today at which point I have an all-around better understanding of anxiety thanks to work training, school, and the school of life. So in this post, I’m going to talk a little bit about the definition and ways to reduce anxiety. (Disclaimer I am not a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist and, if you or a loved one is experiencing extreme uncontrollable anxiety you may want to reach out for medical help.)

By definition, Anxiety is the feeling of impending danger (whether real or perceived) and is characterized by excessive fear and worry. There are different types and stages of anxiety, which I won’t go into right now. But I do want to talk briefly about the influences on the degree of anxiety, which are as follows; how you view your stressor, how many stressors you are dealing with at once, previous experience with the stressor, your degree of physical and emotional health, the magnitude of change the event will cause, the threat to physical integrity, and lastly threats to self-esteem and insults to the identity. I also want to note that not all anxiety is necessarily a bad thing, many say that situational anxiety can lead to more productive behaviors. It should also be noted that anxiety is a normal response to a threat, so don’t let anyone make you feel inferior for being anxious about things. But my bet is you’re here because your anxiety may go a little deeper, it may even hinder from completing tasks such as speaking in public or being in large crowds.

So now we have a better understanding of Anxiety and the factors involved, let’s get into ways to reduce/manage anxiety.  Now a lot of the websites/books I’ve read will tell you to meditate, reduce your alcohol consumption, avoid caffeine, and reduce your stressors, etc. Not to say that these don’t work, however, if you’re anything like me avoiding caffeine does not reduce my stress. I like my coffee and meditation has never been my strong point, all I end up doing is thinking about all of my stressors. So needless to say these just didn’t cut it for me, I have a list of a few ways I use in my everyday life to manage/cope with anxiety.

1.    Face your stressors head-on, meaning whatever the source of your anxiety, face it head-on instead of avoidance. Figure out a plan to handle it, if you have multiple stressors during this process take it one step at a time dealing with the most important first. How I do this is by writing out a list, of what needs to be done and creating a step by step plan to handle it. For me this coping mechanism allows me to see my stressors and see a way out.

2.    If anxiety is keeping you up at night, tell yourself a story. I know this sounds completely juvenile but it works. It takes your mind off of your stressor and puts you in charge of your thoughts. When you are doing this try not to make it something too simple, but it should be light-hearted. However, you do want it to be complex enough to keep your attention. What I visualize is something I want to happen in the future, or something that I know will invoke positive feelings.  

3.    Anxiety is overcoming you, rationalize with yourself. Now I know this may sound insulting but track with me for just one minute. Sometimes I get so overcome with my emotions and I can feel myself starting to go into a panic. I feel my heart rate begins to increase and it’s like I’m being zipped up into a bag like all of my problems are swallowing me whole. How I handle it; taking a few deep breaths, letting myself know it’s okay to be stress but letting myself know I can’t let it control me. I tell myself to maintain control, I rationalize with myself.

4.    Breathe your way through, if you get to the point that you are having a panic attack the most important thing to remember is to control your breathing. When you’re having an anxiety attack it can feel like you are having a heart attack you may start hyperventilating which can cause breathing impairment leading you to faint. Maintaining control of your breathing will help, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth you want to do this slowly.

5.    Talk about it; as cliché as this may seem, talking about your stressors/feelings is always a go-to way to release some stress. I know that not everyone has someone to talk to, heck sometimes I don’t want to dump all of my issues on people so I talk to myself out loud. I know it sounds bazaar but sometimes just getting it out makes all the difference. If you aren’t a talker, try to write it out. Writing about your problems allows you to release your stress without having to say them out loud. I have used both of these to take a bit of weight off my shoulders.

I’m not going to tell you to remove your stressors because that would be insulting, however, I will say to find ways to cope with the stress you do have. Everyone has their way of coping, you have to figure out a HEALTHY way to do so. For example, my coping mechanisms are as follows:

1.    Writing out my stressors

2.    Walking trails at local parks (clears my head)

3.    Reading (allows me to focus on other things)

4.    Listening to music AND dancing (the lightheartedness of this releases stress in a fun way)

5.    Spending time alone (this allows me to recharge)

Lastly I used the following workbook to maintain my emotional health.

The Anxiety and Worry Workbook: The Cognitive Behavioral Solution

So, all in all, I hope this helps someone, also remember my way to cope may not work for you. Developing your coping mechanisms may take some trial and error but you can do it. Anxiety doesn’t have to control your life, you have everything you need to change your circumstance. if you have any further questions feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @thatgirlinspires or via email at whattanasiasays@gmail.com.

Xo Tanasia.

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