Before I delve in to the simple tips to manage anxiety in the moment, I wanted to gush about the loveliest feedback I’ve had from people this week. I’ve heard that my Instagram posts and this blog have really helped people during difficult times. It’s honestly the most amazing thing to hear. I welled up! I started Kirsty Thinks with the thought that if I could help just one person by being honest about my experiences and share some positivity and motivation, then it would all be worth it. That ambition has now been realised (thanks to hearing your heart-bursting words…thanks girls) and it’s what will keep me going when I’m having a dark day or when anxiety or self-doubt creep in. It’s also given me motivation to think about other ways to grow Kirsty Thinks and continue to help people. Watch this space!
As promised last week with my cheeky teaser, I’ll be giving you some simple tips and advice to help manage anxiety when it rears its ugly head. Firstly, I should say, if anxiety is taking over, if you’re having attacks and it’s affecting your day to day life it would be beneficial for you to talk to your doctor or meet with a therapist. Little ol’ me can only tell you ways that can help ease it, I’m not a professional (far from it!).
So what is anxiety?
Explaining anxiety to someone who has never experienced it is quite hard. How do you explain that big knot in your stomach or pain in your chest that won’t go away? The thoughts that run 100 miles an hour in your head. The shortness of breath. Feeling like you’re going to throw up. Imagine feeling like that poor cup of anxitea. Anxiety is a bitch! In a nutshell…anxiety stems from the fight or flight response we got back in the cave man days. You know when they were faced with danger every time they went out to put some meat on their plates (I’m guessing they didn’t have plates but you know what I mean…!). When faced with danger the brain sent a signal to their body to get ready for action. As we’ve evolved our perception of danger has changed…first world problems and all that. Now that fight or flight response that makes our legs like jelly and gives you that knot in your stomach is inappropriately activated during normal, everyday situations when stress has built up, often unknowingly.
how to manage anxiety when it creeps in…
These are some simple things you can do in the moment to manage anxiety. There are more long-term solutions (changing your thinking styles being one) which we’ll visit another time.
Write. Act. Turn the page. Grab yourself a notebook or a real-life worry journal and write down:
- what it is you feel is making you feel anxious
- Can you do anything about it?
- If yes, what can you do about it? Give yourself a mini action plan
- If no, turn the page and leave that worry there
Just the act of writing down what is causing you to worry is so helpful. You’re unloading it out of your head and on to paper. You’re acknowledging the worry, looking at ways you can tackle it and by turning the page you’re moving on. I have one by my bed and it honestly helps when I’m feeling anxious and want to get a good nights sleep.
I remember when I was on a course for work with about 30 strangers and we had to do the cringeworthy around the room introduction, including a fun fact. Yes, I died inside slightly… While also cringing I suddenly felt incredibly anxious. I started feeling really hot and my heart was racing. I didn’t want it to be obvious that I felt nervous when it came to my turn to speak and then I remembered a trick my therapist had told me – “ground yourself”. Grounding yourself is to become aware of your surroundings and your senses. So I looked out of the window and described in my head what I could see…green leaves on the trees, a really dark green… As my mind was focused on describing what I could see and being in that moment my anxious feelings calmed and my racing heartbeat slowed. Next time you feel anxiety look, hear, smell, taste and describe it all out loud or in your head (if you’re in company and don’t want to look odd!).
You can distract yourself in many ways, but when you’re in a group situation or sitting at your desk some really simple ways to distract yourself:
- Do your times tables in your head (yes, it’s a bit odd but it works a treat when I’m trying to not cry in front of someone, ha!)
- List all the car manufacturers you can think of (you’ll be surprised how many you know!). Or, list the all of the fashion designers you know. Any list that gets your mind thinking
- Draw or colour in. There are loads of mindfulness colouring books out there. Not my cup of tea but people love them
- Look around you and identify all the objects beginning with the letter L
The power of deep breathing is under-rated! Yes it’s obvious, but really concentrating on your breathing works wonders. That big inhale of breath that fills you up for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, to that deep exhale out of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Concentrating and counting as you do it is helpful for when you feel your heart racing or are getting dizzy from anxiety.
I introduced catastrophising as one of the unhelpful thinking styles that can see you back and cause anxiety. When you start feeling anxious you can use a castostrophy scale to help put things in to perspective and ease your mind. Draw a line with 1 and 100 at opposite ends. Now, if you think of the most awful thing as 100 (world ending…!) plot where your current situation lies… Is it as awful as you think? Can you manage it?
Wow that was a bit of a beast of a blog ay?!
Weekly task is tres simple…use one or two or as many as you like of these anxiety easing tips and see what works for you. Some sound proper basic, but they honestly work. Take it from a sceptic!
Until next time.