Updated: Dec 22, 2022
The anticipation of anxiety as we start our day each morning is nothing short of exhausting. We slowly begin to "white-knuckle" our way through our week as a means to get by. However, there are tools that take seconds to do each day that can help you manage your experience of anxiety quite effectively. So let's begin.
Step 1: Prevention
Have you ever had the experience of driving and then suddenly realizing you are at your destination and don’t remember getting there? Often, when we are stressed and overwhelmed, we switch onto "auto-pilot". This could be a sign that you are living in "survival mode" which might sound scary but is pretty normal when we are overwhelmed or stressed. We need to teach our bodies that we are safe and that it’s okay to stop and smell the roses every now and then. When we are "white-knuckling" and holding our breath throughout our day, we are communicating to our bodies that we are "unsafe" even if we are perfectly safe.
It is important to create some kind of mental or physical transition between activities. Think of it like creating checkpoints throughout the day for your brain to rest and re-group.
Try engaging your senses as a "transitional" activity. For example, when you leave your house and go into your car to drive to work, notice...
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
Step 2: Action
Move Your Body
Often when we are in a state of anxiety we hold our breath and tense our muscles. When we can take notice of these things in our body language, we can change our bodily experience by creating healthy movement. You can burn off that anxious energy by going for a walk, singing, having a dance party, etc. These things communicate to your body that you are safe. Anxiety and excitement feel similar in the body. If we can help our body label that feeling as excitement rather than anxiety then we can have a better relationship with that feeling in our body when it shows up.
Step 3: Fuel
Fuel Your Body
Sometimes our bodies can express feelings of anxiety if we are not getting the proper nutrients we need to function. You can manage anxiety, stress, and fatigue by consuming a good amount of food and nutrients. Just the act of having water and snacks with you at all times can relieve anxiety. No really, even just having your water bottle visible on your desk can reduce anxiety. Having food and water available communicates safety and access to basic needs.
Step 4: Compassion
Manage Your Self-Talk
What happens when you share with others that you are feeling anxious? Have you ever had someone say “it’s fine”, “don’t worry” or “don’t think about it”? Oftentimes when we confide in others about our anxiety they often respond in a way that can make us feel even more anxious. Why does this kind of response make us more anxious? Because now your experience is being challenged and your anxiety might increase because now your anxious because this person isn’t worried about the very real thing you might be worried about.
Make it a habit to validate and comfort yourself in ways that others might not do for you. When you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, say to yourself “thank you body for alerting me, but there is no danger here”.
Step 5: Rest
Notice what Recharges You
Prioritize having time in "un-stimulating" environments. Make this type of rest a part of your daily or weekly routine. It is easy to become overstimulated by our environment. Set aside time away from noise, lights, and other kinds of stimulation or information that overwhelms you.
Many of these tools are utilized as "prevention" strategies. What this means is that we should not engage in these tools only when we experience anxiety, but that we should make them a part of our day-to-day to help prevent future episodes of anxiety.