How to deal with feelings of anxiety in 8 manageable steps
Have you ever experienced feelings of anxiety? I know I have. It was when I was in my early twenties and dealing with lots of change in my life, that I first experienced anxiety. I didn't know what it was then of course, but the negative emotions I experienced started with an awful panicky feeling. I believed I could hear my own heart beating and it felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. My breathing quickened and I remember my legs went like jelly. I couldn't think straight and I just wanted to run and hide away.
Unfortunately many of us experience the same or similar feelings. For me, the worst aspect was that I didn't feel in control of my situation and I know when speaking to clients about anxiety they tell me the same thing.
Fortunately, I was able to talk to people around me that I was close to and explain how I was feeling. Over a period of a few weeks my personal situation calmed down and my feelings of anxiety subsided.
Today we know so much more about anxiety, but what was true then and still is today, is that we can learn simple and effective tools and strategies for dealing with anxiety. This will then lead us to have empowerment and control over our negative feelings of anxiety, therefore helping us in any situation we find ourselves in.
But what exactly is anxiety?
Believe it or not anxiety is completely natural and is our body's emotional and physical reaction triggered by our thoughts to extreme changes in the environment around us. You may have heard of the fight or flight response, which is our body's emergency response to save our life in a moment of crisis. When we think we're in danger, our body releases a surge of adrenaline into our bloodstream putting us into high alert. This is exactly the correct and appropriate response if, say we were running from a stranger or even jumping out of the way of a dangerous object.
However this reaction is not so helpful if our mind and body reacts in an emergency response to seemingly low level events, like traveling on public transport or even to situations where we might rightly feel nervous, like sitting an exam or speaking in front of people.
What are the steps to help with feelings of anxiety?
Here are eight steps to follow which will enable you to control and calm your thoughts should you feel the emotions of anxiety. I call these eight little steps of empowerment.
1. Anchor yourself
Feel your feet on the floor or touch a wall with your hand. Really allow yourself to concentrate and feel that object. Bring yourself back to the moment.
Sounds obvious but take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs. Hold your breath to the count of "three." and then Exhale slowly. Repeat.
3. Form a power posture
Think of a Superhero - stand up, pull your shoulders back, plant your feet evenly and widely apart, and open your chest. When you stand in a confident way then your mind and body connection will allow your body to remember it's not in danger.
4. Remember the 3's
Distract yourself and look for three things you can see. Three things you can hear and three things you can touch. This is to interrupt the pattern of your mind feeling anxious.
5. Think of your favourite relaxing colour
Now imagine yourself breathing in this colour, filling your lungs. At the same time think of a colour that you associate with your negative feelings and breath that out of your body. Do this a number of times.
6. Be aware of your thoughts!
Think back to what you were thinking about just prior to feeling anxious. Was it anything you have control over? Was it something in your future? Often we worry about things in our future, which have yet to happen, so being realistic how do we know if that is going to come true? We can only live in the present moment.
Remember it's our thoughts which create our feelings, which create our behaviour and then our eventual result. Empower yourself with positive thoughts to have a better outcome.
7. Face the source
Whatever it is that you feel anxious about, look at what you can do now. More often when we do face events that we have worried about beforehand we find that we manage so much better than we imagined we ever would. What small steps can you take today?
Reach out and talk to someone you trust. In times like these talking to someone can really help to lessen the burden. Is there a family member, a partner or friend that you trust? There are also many brilliant and professional resources available and organisations set up to support you through periods of anxiety. Remember you are not alone!
By following these eight little steps in moments of anxiety, you will allow yourself the space to calm your mind and to move past any negative feelings. And most importantly of all, to gain control over your life.