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I Feel Anxious. How Can I Cope? Part 1

If you are reading this post, chances are you’re experiencing some level of anxiety. What if I told you that you hold more control over your anxiety than it does over you? Anxiety often feels overwhelming, but it is important to recognize that you can navigate through it.

Anxiousness and Control

It is natural to feel consumed by anxiety, as if it is completely beyond your control. However, anxiety is a response to perceived threats or stressors. Our core beliefs and thoughts about a situation lead to anxiety. This means you can identify and reframe unhelpful thoughts, process the origin of your core beliefs, and develop healthier ones. These are a handful of several techniques that a therapist might employ during a session, and encourage you to practice on your own, to be in control of your anxiety.

Anxiety often manifests as rumination over past events or worry about the future. When you’re reliving the past or thinking about the future, you’re not fully in the present moment. One way to cope with anxiety is through mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you fully immerse yourself in the present moment, focusing on one task or experience at a time. It does not have to be thirty minutes of meditation.

Mindfulness Practice 54321

Mindfulness can look like going on a walk in the beautiful spring weather without any music on. Your job is to pay attention to your surroundings and notice what is new. It might be a crack in the sidewalk, or a leaf on the street. If that does not resonate with you, you can also choose a color and focus on all objects in that color. For example, a red car, a red door, a red dog leash, etc. This does not have to be for your entire walk. I encourage you to try it for a few minutes.

Another mindful practice is called 54321 and it can be practiced anywhere. You go through the following questions:

  • What are 5 things you see?
  • 4 things you can touch?
  • 3 things you can hear?
  • 2 things you can smell?
  • 1 thing you can taste?

When feeling anxious, it is helpful to first ground yourself in the present moment and then focus on your cognitions. It will be more difficult to try challenging or reframing your thoughts if your body is not regulated.

Additional Mindfulness Skills

Another coping skill involves setting aside designated “worry time”. As the name suggests, you would allocate specific times in your day to address anxious thoughts. Your worry time can be flexible. It can be at the same time every day, or it can vary. Many clients I have worked with express a preference to schedule a worry time in the late afternoon or evening.

Once you have chosen a worry time, set a reasonable duration for this activity and use a timer to keep track. I recommend starting with 10-15 minutes of worry time a day, and then speaking with a therapist to discuss how you can tailor worry time to meet your individual needs. This strategy is twofold.

It enables you to delay worrying until a more appropriate time, allowing you to live more in the present moment. In addition, you might find that your worry is less powerful in the evening. When we spend time thinking about our anxious thoughts as we attempt to go about our daily lives, we are intensifying them. By temporarily stepping away from these thoughts, you allow your mind and body to disengage from the fight-or-flight response.

Counseling Tailored for Your Needs

I hope you get a chance to practice the coping skills described above. In the next part of this blog series, I will delve further into understanding and managing your thoughts. If you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety, please contact Symmetry Counseling at (312)578-9990 or visit https://www.symmetrycounseling.com/.

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