Is anxiety your middle name? We all know how the symptoms of anxiety and stress affect our mental health, but what are day to day things that we can do and tools we can rely on during these difficult times? Read my list below to learn more!
Ok, this one is really obvious, I know, but I find this to be the most underestimated and overlooked one because typically clients think it sounds too easy. Luckily, it’s easy to use in any situation. Breathing with intent involves long, deep breaths stemming from the abdomen. I typically recommend a slow seven-second-long breath in, a 3-second hold or pause, followed by a slow seven second exhale.
Listening to Music
This tactic is also straight forward but music has always worked for humans as a relaxation technique. Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to create a calming playlist for times of need when experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress. According to Gabe Turow, a scholar at Stanford University, listening to music serves as “one of the most widely available and cost effective therapeutic modalities.” Like taking a pill, music has a way of altering the brain and its functioning to the same extent as medication.
Visualization and Redirecting Thoughts
Although it may sound silly, when my clients are experiencing intrusive, stressful or anxiety provoking thoughts, I instruct them to envision a stop sign in their mind. After picturing this and getting a good visual, then redirect the process of reflection to something entirely different from the original thoughts – like peaceful memories or practicing visualization by picturing a “happy place.” For me, this place would be the beach, mountains or ski slopes. What places do you have in mind?
We all know that exercise burns off stress and serves as a great release, but moving mindfully, such as swimming, dancing, and walking, helps too! While engaging in these activities, it gives you the ability to pay attention to sensations within the body – such as breath and limbs, which can help you feel more grounded. Also, exercise and mindful movement burn up energy, and sometimes an excess of energy can trigger or create anxious thoughts.
Playing Out Scenarios
Often, one of the main drivers for anxiety is the unknown. Many of us struggle with this in a big way. A cognitive behavioral therapy technique that you can use as a stress relieving exercise would be to imagine the best case scenario and the worst case scenario, as well as what is most likely to happen. In doing this, we often find that considering all of the possible options will give us a sense of control when we feel like we’ve lost it completely.
An example of this would be someone who is anxious about what they may find out in going to the doctor for an ailment. The worst case scenario might be that they are diagnosed with a terminal illness, the best case scenario might be that they get a “clean bill of health.” The most likely-to-happen scenario is that they are diagnosed with something minor, such as strep throat, a sinus infection or the stomach bug.
Sometimes it’s hard to find time for self-care, or engaging in relaxing or stress reducing activities. Meditation is a great way to unwind and clear the mind, and in 2020, there are plenty of applications out there where you can engage in 5 to 10-minute meditation sessions.
In reading this I hope you are able to feel more prepared next time you are experiencing anxiety, stress, or unwanted feelings and as if you have a tool box that you can utilize in times of need. Don’t forget to breathe!
Spector, H., (2016). Stress Reducing Exercises for Anxiety-Prone Clients. Simple Practice. Retrieved from: https://www.simplepractice.com/blog/stress-reducing-exercises-anxiety-prone-clients/