When clients visit me for their anxiety, I tell them that having a toolbox to manage their anxiety symptoms is essential. However, techniques to help with anxiety only work when we can accept our symptoms and be present with them instead of fighting against them. This is the first step to introducing tools to help with anxiety.
Incorporating mindfulness is a great tool to practice in order to help with anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness is a meditation technique where the participant practices observing their thoughts and feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Instead of trying to ignore the feelings and thoughts, they are acknowledged and observed so the participant can gain insight and awareness. There are many great books on the topic, as well as mobile apps that you can download. The key is practice, practice, practice! I always tell my clients to think of using mindfulness for their anxiety like training for a marathon, especially if they have an anxiety inducing event coming up. Mindfulness should be practiced until the client is comfortable with the necessary steps to be present and nonjudgmental about their thoughts that may spiral them into a panic attack.
After repeated practice of mindfulness, there are many other tools that can be incorporated with managing anxiety. Some of these include:
-Deep Breathing. While mindfulness meditation incorporates deep breathing, the exercise on its own can also be helpful. Taking slow, long, deep, breaths can ease some of the symptoms of anxiety.
-Counting. Rate your anxiety (1-10, 10 being unbearable) then start counting backwards from 100 and then rate your anxiety again. If your anxiety is an 8 or higher, repeat.
-Spelling. Rate your anxiety (1-10, 10 being unbearable) then browse the environment and start spelling objects backwards. After 3-5 objects rate your anxiety again. If it is an 8 or higher, repeat.
-Envision a safe place. Your safe place should be somewhere you’ve been that you love or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. After becoming more comfortable with your mindfulness practice you can incorporate a safe place. As you practice, this place should become more detailed. When experiencing your anxiety go to your safe place. Close your eyes and start to focus on the details of this place (i.e. smells, textures, temperatures).
Anxiety is not something that has to take over our lives. It can be managed with practice, patience, and acceptance. It is important for someone experiencing moderate to severe anxiety to share their symptoms with their health care providers and seek the necessary support systems to manage anxiety symptoms.