I was talking to a client on Skype today and we were discussing the best ways to deal with anxiety. I decided that, seeing as it is fresh in my mind, it would be a good idea to share it all with you lovely people too!
Anti-anxiety tips take many forms and there are many ways to counteract anxiety. One thing that we have to accept is that, up till now, no one has come up with a way to completely stop intrusive thoughts. They will keep coming. Accept that you have intrusive and fearful (as well as self critical) thoughts and learn not to focus on them Most of these thoughts are just ‘secretions of the brain’. They are often worse than reality (the anticipation is often worse than if the worst actually does happen) and they often have very little evidence of happening – they are based on emotions.
Ways to deal with anxiety
Think of a safe happy place. I think of a bench on a long deserted beach. I can feel the sun on my skin and the breeze blowing through my hair. I can hear seagulls…it’s a safe happy place. Some of my clients go to a pretty secret garden, others go to an actual place they have visited. Visualise as much as you can – what can you see, hear, smell, touch and taste? This visualisation exercise keeps your mind busy, thereby not focusing on those annoying intrusive thoughts.
Headspace – the app
Have you tried the mobile app, Headspace? it’s brilliant and teaches you how to meditate, how to be more mindful and to focus on breathing etc. I highly recommend it.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Sometime, lying in bed at night, I do a quick body scan and notice that some muscles in my body are tense. When we tense up we send signals to our brain that we are under threat. Progressive muscle relaxation is a process whereby you work through the muscles in your body (head to toe or the other way round). Tense your muscles first, start with head and neck, for example, and then relax and make a note of the difference. Work down through your arms, torso, bottom, legs etc tensing and relaxing to get yourself into the habit of being more aware of what state your body is in.
Since I have been doing this I have been aware that I tense my body far more than I realised – even when in bed when I would have thought my whole body would be relaxed. Learn to relax your muscles,it will calm your body and your mind.
Detach from your thoughts
Our thoughts create the problems. We imagine the worst, we frighten ourselves with “what if” scenarios and basically mentally torture ourselves. This is why it pays to distance yourself from your thinking. When you catch yourself frightening yourself or listening to your ‘inner bully’, stop yourself and ask yourself how this is helpful to you. It isn’t. Learn to acknowledge the thoughts but then equally swiftly dismiss them. Most thoughts are not evidence based, they are our fears and insecurities talking to us.
Bring yourself back to the reality of the moment (being mindful) and stop living in the past or the future, unless you are problem solving or making goals.
Remember, when you are in your head, you are in ‘enemy territory’. Learn to let go of the fearful and intrusive thoughts.
Watch this video on negative thinking: