3 Things You Can Do To Help With Anxiety
You have more bills to pay than money coming in. Your kids have gotten on your last nerve. You feel as though you work all of the time and never get a chance to relax. Even when you are not working it always feels like someone is asking something of you. You earn vacation at work; however, you never take it because you either don’t have the money for a vacation or you dread the work you will come back to. You’ve forgotten how to have fun. It seems like you are always stressing about something. Your neck constantly hurts, and your shoulders are tight. You notice that you can’t remember a time when your body was not this wound up.
It is taking you longer and longer to understand the material you are reading. Frustrating you, fueling worries and concerns about not being “smart” enough. You feel as though you are always a step behind those around you. If only you could catch up or at least stay one or two steps behind then maybe they won’t notice your insecurities. Anxiety is real (even in men), and it’s exhausting and creates a heavier burden to carry.
Maybe you have friends or family that have pointed out some habits you have developed from the stress you are under. Some people have turned to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. But maybe you don’t realize that your nail-biting, pulling at your hair, or the almost constant jittering of your body (legs, and often tapping of hands) can also be habits you have developed from the worries you carry.
You worry about your significant other so much, what they are doing, where they are, what would happen if they were gone. You fear that something will happen, leaving you alone to raise the kids, take care of the bills, and figure out life on your own.
You have been struggling so long now and just feel utterly drained.
Here are three things you can do to help with your anxiety.
- Identify and name what you are feeling. Have you ever noticed that sometimes we worry more when we cannot identify what it is we are up against? A normal reaction nowadays when we notice a symptom is to go on the internet and search for the symptoms we are having. What happens next is we get a huge list of things that may or may not be wrong with us, but the human tendency is to assume the worst. The same thing occurs when we do not recognize what we are feeling are stress and anxiety. We need to first decide whether the nature of stress or anxiety is warranted. An example of warranted stress is the anxiety we feel when a child or loved one is in danger. We spring into action throwing caution to the wind and do whatever we can to prevent something bad from happening. Sometimes it’s that report that is due tomorrow, for your job, or class and everything depends on it is complete and thorough. Sometimes this can be a good thing and other times it can be harmful to ourselves. I learned in school that I literally cannot write for a project until I am under pressure/ stress. I spent an entire semester with time blocked out every day to write the papers required for class, and being totally and completely unable to write a single word. However, when crunch time would occur (usually the day before the assignment was due) I would be able to write the paper in a matter of hours. I learned that I could waste tons of time trying to write, or I could wait until “crunch” time and then the creative juices would flow and the assignment would be completed. However, if you do not perform well under pressure, then this would be an example of bad negative stress. You would be better served to block out that time and eating the elephant one bite at a time.
So when anxiety, stress, worry, anger, depression, or feelings of being overwhelmed occur, go ahead and ask yourself: What am I feeling? Why am I feeling like this?, then name it as I’m stressed or anxious because of ________.
- Identify any triggersI remember my first trip to Las Vegas with my father. While we were there on the very first night he told me a “secret” about slot machines. He said “the casinos often have the machines timed out so that around check-in time there are slots going off. They usually make the slots on the ends of the rows win more as well.” Now let me clarify I don’t know if he was correct here; however, his logic was sound. “The reason they do this is when you check into the hotel and hear those sounds your brain thinks I can win, and since people walk on the outside of the isles they want you to see people winning so that you spend your money,” my father said. To this day if I hear the sound of a slot machine I think of what my father told me. It creates a response within myself that says the sound you are hearing does not mean you will have the same results. Some people when they hear this sound have to run to the nearest machine. The sound has become a trigger for them, which drives them to chase the slot machine payout.
We can have good triggers, such as, smelling cologne or perfume that your significant other wore on your first date, activating memories from that date. And we can have bad triggers, such as those associated with something that happened that was unpleasant.
Anxiety operates in a similar fashion. Sometimes an event triggers us to be anxious, on alert for a benefit, and other times a trigger activates to our detriment. When we follow Step 1 above identifying and naming what we are feeling, we can then move to Step 2 by identifying any triggers. If we identify that the anxiety is helpful then great move forward with it, or lean into the stress… However, if after identifying the anxiety as not helpful then you can try and create a way to avoid, manage, or change the outcome of the trigger. Often times it is very hard to identify what has triggered the anxiety, but the more you seek to identify it the easier it becomes. The same is true about changing your reactions to the trigger. The more you face it head on the better you get at it.
- Coping your way out of stressThere is a saying that says, there are healthy and unhealthy coping skills, there is no such thing as bad coping skills. There are parts of this I agree with. I know that coping skills exist and are used because they provide some benefit or relief. For instance, someone who is stressed out at work and decides every time they have a tough day to stop by the bar on the way home for a drink is using the bar for relief from that day at work. Some people use food as a coping tool as well, I find often if I’m bored I think I am hungry (often not the case, but a coping tool used to combat boredom). What coping tools do you have/ use, and what do you use them for?
I want to share with you some of the coping skills I use for anxiety. This is by no means an exhaustive list, it is as I said what works for me. Often times anxiety likes to find me at night when I am trying to go to sleep. It wants to replay all my failures, mistakes, problems, and challenges on a constant loop preventing me from going to sleep. I found that I can take a pen and notebook and write down the thoughts and issues I’m having onto the pages. As I write I tell myself “I’m writing this down, so I don’t have to worry about it any longer.” To be honest, I hate journaling, always have. I also hate exercising, but if I want to lose weight and be healthy, I have to do it. It just works.
I often use breathing exercises to help with stress. As a parent, one of the most stressful times for me is when your child will not do as they are told, and are being corrected (in the younger years mine love to take this opportunity to throw a huge screaming fit). You know how sometimes those fits just get under your skin… Well to help teach my kids to calm down when throwing their fit I tell them “we are going to smell the flowers” (I then take a breath in through the nose), and “blow out the candles” (exhale from my mouth), “we are going to continue this until you calm down”. Something surprising and amazing happens during these times. I have found that by me providing an example I was actually doing the breathing exercises and it allowed me to deal with the situation with so much more ease. There have been times that the fits have gotten on my nerves, but there are far more times than I have been able to remain perfectly calm.
Lastly, there is so much research out there that supports using exercise to help with stress. Physical exercise releases endorphins that actually change the way your brain is working at that moment. Out of all of the coping tools exercise is the one that really requires active planning. I have found that scheduling exercise at the end of my day after work allows me to “work” through whatever stresses, worries or anxieties came my way that day.
To recap, stress, anxiety, and being overwhelmed are normal in most cases. Not only can it wreak havoc on your relationship with your partner, left unchecked, anxiety often grows like a snowball barreling down the side of a hill. The above three basic strategies can help with anxiety discussed, but as is the case with most things in life, they take practice.
Step One – identify and name.
Step Two – identify triggers, and
Step Three – use coping skills.
These are merely a starting point; however, sometimes we all need a little more help. Let me invite you to reach out to us at Daniel Edwards Counseling so that we can help you explore your anxiety, your triggers, and learn coping skills that can improve your life. Let’s Connect.