Coping with Anxious Thoughts and Feelings
Anxiety can come on suddenly during the day without any obvious trigger. The thoughts of fear and doubt can feel nearly paralyzing but at the same time I feel pressure to complete school, work, or a necessary task and I can’t crawl into my bed until the feelings go away.
Here are a list the things I have learned to do that really work when I’m in the thick of it:
1. Be where my feet are. Remind myself that I am safe in this moment and this feeling will pass.
The first thing I do when I start to get overwhelmed and feel a rush of anxiety is to plant my feet firmly into the ground and remind myself where I am. I want to get out of my head and into my body. I tell myself that am safe right here in this moment and I do not need to think about the future right now. This feeling will pass as all feelings do. Although it is uncomfortable, I will get through it.
2. Make myself more physically comfortable.
If I am home I can change into comfier clothes, take off my makeup and jewelry, and fix
anything that is bothering me physically.
If I am away from home, I can step out of the room I am in, get some water and sit somewhere comfortable to regroup.
3. Tell someone how I am feeling. I find comfort in knowing someone is aware that I am feeling off but I do not place expectations on them to help me improve my mood.
I tell either who I am with that I am feeling anxious or I text a family member, my boyfriend, or a friend. I simply tell them I am having anxiety or that I feel down and I take comfort in the fact that they know and I am not alone in this. There is no expectation on them to fix my mood because I know that ultimately only I have control in this situation.
If the person you are with does not understand anxiety well or does not know you well you can describe your physical symptoms briefly to them and say you need a moment to collect yourself- everyone in one way or another knows what it feels like to be uncomfortable or need a moment to themselves.
You can describe that you feel brain fog, fatigue, a racing heart, numbness or shakiness, racing thoughts, confusion, or whatever describes your current situation. You can say that you have felt these things before and you are okay but you need to pause what you are doing (if that will you help you). By reassuring the person you are with that you will be okay, you are also reassuring yourself.
Naming what you are feeling will also help ground you and make you feel what’s going on inside of your body. It can help anxiety feel less uncomfortable if you separate out the symptoms.
4. Do a grounding exercise.
Grounding is any technique used to bring a person back in contact with the present moment. My favourite is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. If I am home I’ll either say out-loud or write down 5 things I can see, 4 things I can touch, 3 thing I can hear, 2 things I can smell, and 1 thing I can taste. This transfers my focus to the room I am in and away from anxiety about the future. If I am in public I can make a mental note of my surroundings.
Video of the 5-4-3-2-1 method:
5. Box breathing
Some people like to perform breathing exercises first and that is an excellent option but for me personally, I need to ground my racing thoughts before I can focus on my breath.
A breath exercise I like is box breathing. I sit up or lay down and put one hand over my chest and the other on my stomach. I breathe in for 5 seconds feeling my stomach region feel with air and my hand being lifted while making sure the hand over my chest does not lift. Breathing into your chest does not help to regulate your breath. You want a deep breath you can feel below your diaphragm. I then hold the breath for 5 seconds, breathe out for 5 seconds feeling my stomach and hand lower, then hold for 5 seconds and repeat for about a minute.
Here is a video of the box breathing method: