The following information is to help you to manage your anxiety in the moment.
What is Anxiety? Anxiety is a throw back from our ancestors when our awareness needed to be heightened so we didn’t get eaten by dinosaurs.
These pre-historic instincts remain within us even though modern day life doesn’t really call for them to be as strong as they often are. Therefore understanding them, and managing them are key to being able to lessen their impact on our lives.
Below are some strategies and exercises for you to try when you feel anxiety is beginning to present itself.
It may sound cliché but learning to control your breathing is a great way of lessening the immediate effect of your anxious feelings.
Box breathing =
Breathe in slowly for 5 counts.
Hold for 5 counts.
Breathe out slowly for 5 counts
Hold for 5 counts.
Repeat this exercise 3 times and your heart rate should begin to slow down helping to ease the anxious feelings.
Ground yourself in the present. By tapping into our 5 senses we can let go of our concerns about the past and future and ground ourselves in the present.
Grounding Techniques: Look around you and focus your surroundings.
Name 5 things you can see.
Name 4 things you can touch.
Name 3 things you can hear.
Name 2 things you can smell.
Name 1 thing you can taste.
3. Create a safe space:
If your anxieties are more present at work, create an area that you can consider your safe space that feels calming and grounding.
On the corner of your desk, or on a windowsill, place things like a plant and photo of somewhere that brings you comfort, or bring in a couple of small objects from home that you can focus on when necessary, to induce a feeling of sanctuary.
Think about what you enjoy doing that is accessible to you in the moment, or you can look forward to doing later in the day. For example:
Going for a walk in nature.
Taking a long hot bath.
Watching a movie.
Listening to music.
Arts & crafts.
Golf or fishing
Remind yourself that at this very moment in time: “I am safe, and all is well.” “I am safe, and all is well.” “I am safe, and all is well.”
Try saying this when you are feeling anxious, alongside the breathing techniques.
Reflect on what, in particular, induces your anxiety. By looking at what triggers your anxiety you may be able to find new ways to cope with it.
Look at the situation and work out whether your feelings are justified; is there any evidence to back up your worries and concerns, or is it triggered by your own intrusive thoughts? If this is the case, can you find a way to quieten these thoughts? If there is an external cause, perhaps look at addressing it constructively, possibly by moving forward in a new direction.
7. Get it out:
Write things down. Particularly if your anxiety is causing problems sleeping, you may find it useful to keep a notepad by your bed and write down the issues that are coming up in the night. When reflecting on them during the daytime, you may find solutions, or that they are not as impacting on you as it felt in the night.
Meditation can take many forms. There are apps available that help teach traditional meditation skills, but if this is not for you, try listening to music, watching a light-hearted movie or series. Any distraction that enables you to empty your thoughts can be considered meditation.
Using your observational skills to bring you into the moment, take a look at the picture below and try to answer the questions associated with it.
How many round tables are there?
Name something beginning with ‘w’
What might the air smell of?
Can you spot the purple flowers?
What time of day is it likely to be?
How many cushions don’t have stripes?
What might the temperature feel like?
How many candles are there? And how many are hanging?
What sounds might be audible to you?
Which chair looks the most comfortable?
How many species of flowers are visible?
Who would you like to join you at the table, and what would you talk about?
By doing this exercise, you are focusing on the image, thereby lessening the focus on your anxieties therefore grounding you in the moment.
Try applying this exercise to your own surroundings when it feels you need bringing into the present–ie how many items can you see that are blue, what can you smell? What does the ground feel like beneath your feet?
To remind yourself of your ability to move through difficulties, think of a time in your past when things have felt very challenging, and you have felt particularly anxious. Remember how debilitating it felt at the time? Now try to recall how you were able to overcome it–that moment when you felt it was now behind you. Reflect on this, on your proven ability to recover from difficult situations showing a greater level of resilience than you may realise.