Feeling anxious is something that we all face at some point in our life. We each have our own fears and situations that make us uncomfortable. The difference is, some of us have such adverse reactions to anxiety that it can affect our daily lives. This is normal, in fact, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada, 1 in 4 Canadians will experience Anxiety Disorder in their lifetime. For me personally, I dealt with this over the course of 2017. During this period of time, I collected different methods of coping with stress and my overwhelming nerves. In case you or someone you know is going through this tough time, I have decided to share with the ways in which I have learned ways to cope with anxiety.
12 Ways to Cope with Anxiety
Remember that stress is normal
During my struggle with anxiety, even the tiniest bit of stress would send me into a downward spiral. I became so afraid of having a panic attack that the second I felt nervous, I would get so scared that the panic would come anyway. I had to learn that feelings of nervousness are normal and it does not mean I am going to have an anxiety attack. It is healthy to experience some nerves and it is encouraged to do one thing every day that scares you in order to grow stronger. Now, when I experience stress or nerves, I recognize it as a normal human emotion, and then let it pass.
Turn your anxiety into a cute character
This is probably the silliest method on my list of ways to cope with anxiety, but it works for me. Try personifying your anxiety. Picture your anxiety as an adorable cartoon character. For some reason, I chose Jigglypuff – a bubble-gum pink Pokémon character. Whenever I felt panic, I pictured that it was just Jigglypuff misbehaving, and I would tell it to disappear. For some reason, this really helped me.
When you’re feeling anxious, your brain is going a million miles per minute. This often makes us rush and feel even more stressed. Chances are, there is no reason to be rushing, and we can take a deep breath and do things as slowly as we want. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Sometimes, when I am at work, I realize that I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off. There is really no need for keeping up this pace, it just causes stress. Take your time and enjoy life.
Imagine the worst
This seems like it definitely won’t help, but surprisingly, it does. For me, the root of my stress comes from getting sick in public. I don’t really know why that makes me anxious, but as soon as I feel sick or am asked to do something stressful, I immediately feel like I am going to projectile vomit everywhere. Now, has this ever happened to me? Nope. I always end up catastrophizing the situation and thinking it will be the end of the world. In reality, if I do get sick in public, literally nothing will happen. Life will go on. By imagining the worst, I can see that even if my worst nightmare comes true, it really wouldn’t be that bad! The anxiety surrounding the situation is often worse than the thing you’re most afraid of.
Take Baby Steps
Sometimes, facing the day seems like too much and even getting out of bed feels too hard. That’s okay. Don’t look at everything you need to do today, just take it in baby steps. The first thing you need to do is put your feet on the floor and just stand up. Try to take it one tiny step at a time. I wrote a whole blog post on this subject, if you’re interested in reading it!
Think about everything that’s going right
Even on the worst days, there are positive things happening all around us. Count your blessings and try switch your thinking to positivity. There is always a bright side and something to be grateful for.
Start a conversation
All I want to do when I’m feeling anxious is sit alone in a corner and isolate myself from friends and family. I have learned that this only makes it worse. If you force yourself into a conversation, it will most likely distract you from your anxiety and make the time pass easier. If you’re too anxious to think about something to talk about (I’ve been there), just walk up to someone and ask them to tell you a story because you need a distraction. I have done this in the past and have been so pleasantly surprised that others will take the lead and give you the support and distraction to help you through.
Self Help Resources
There are so many resources out there to help you cope with anxiety. Free ones online like TedTalks, or Blog Posts, like this one. Podcasts, books and even real people around you who have been there and have suggestions on how to get through.
Keep moving, literally
Jumping up and down, stretching or doing exercise has really helped ground me into my body and trust that I am in control. Staying in bed and feeling paralyzed is common with anxiety, but it really doesn’t help. Do some jumping jacks or go for a walk. Join a yoga class or dance to your favourite song. Being physical and getting out of your head is really important when dealing with overwhelming stress.
Watch something light-hearted
For me, watching Christmas themed videos, AKA “Vlogmas” by various Youtubers, is my favourite distraction. It makes me happy and helps me forget my worries. Putting on something that you can watch mindlessly, like a sit-com that makes you laugh, or a children’s movie that you’ve loved since you were little, can be really helpful.
If you google “Affirmations for anxiety” you will find tons of phrases to repeat to yourself in times of stress. Telling myself that this situation is only temporary, really seems to work for me. Tell yourself that feelings come and go, that you are safe and that you are in control of your thoughts. Find which affirmations work for you.
When all else fails, it is completely okay to let medication take the edge off. I have been using prescribed medication as one of my ways to cope with anxiety for over a year. Sometimes, when you are in the thick of it, it feels too late to try these coping mechanisms. You can certainly learn to deal with your anxiety, but learning while you’re panicking is very difficult. For me, once the medication started working, I was able to take a step back and learn which other coping mechanisms methods work for me, so I never have to get that anxious again. Now that I’ve learned what helps me in anxious situations, with my doctor’s help, I am weaning off the medicine with much success.
Remember that feelings of stress are completely normal. I hope that my first hand experience is able to help anyone else going through this tough disorder. I know it feels like it will never end, but I promise it gets better. The more situations you get through, the stronger you feel and you begin to realize that there is nothing to fear. The fear itself is often the scariest part of anxiety.
Even if you aren’t experiencing this debilitating disorder, I encourage you to read this and other resources and learn the tools because we all run into stressful times. Once we know how effective ways to cope with anxiety, life gets a lot easier.
If you know anyone who might benefit from these 12 ways to cope with anxiety, give it a share. You might end up helping someone going through a tough time. We are all in this together, and we need to break the stigma surrounding mental health. For more ways to break the stigma, read this post!
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