Six Simple Tips to Beat Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the most painful and distressing emotions. The good news is, it can also provide us with the motivation to learn new coping strategies.
We may reduce the frequency and severity of anxiety experienced by trying some or all of the following techniques. Experiment with these to see which works best for you! Like any skill, the more you practice the greater the benefits.
Diaphragmatic breathing, an old trick often used by actors and others to reduce feelings of nervousness or stage fright, is something which I always teach clients.
Many people breathe in a shallow or uneven pattern when anxious, causing imbalance of oxygen and Co2 in the body, which in turn can cause the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Instead, try practicing the following: Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, ensuring the hand on your stomach moves OUT as you breath in.(This may feel strange at first!) Try a slow count to 4 while breathing in (stomach out) and the same for breathing out (stomach in), gently and slowly. Practice for a few minutes each day, perhaps on waking in the morning, Try it now to see how much more relaxed you can become!
Deep levels of mental and physical relaxation can be achieved through Progressive Muscle Relaxation where major muscle groups in the body are alternately tensed and relaxed. Muscled should be tensed for around 5 seconds then relaxed for around 10 seconds. Then repeat.
It is practiced by many of my clients to assist in getting a good night’s sleep!
Try tensing then relaxing your muscle groups in the following order: forehead, eyes, jaws, neck, shoulders, chest and upper back, biceps, forearms, hands, abdomen, lower back, hips, buttocks, thighs, calves, feet.
You may be surprised at the level of relaxation achieved as well as your ability to take your mind off anxious thoughts and feelings. And remember, practice makes perfect!
Use your Imagination!
Learn to relax and take control of anxiety by taking a few moments to visualise a scene that is tranquil and restful for you – perhaps somewhere you’ve already been or a scene that helps you feel safe, tranquil and relaxed. The more you can ‘bring it alive” the better – by seeing what you see, hearing what you hear and feeling what you feel. Use as many senses as possible for greatest effect and improvement of your ability to relax.
Anxiety is often fuelled by focusing internally on the thoughts or physical sensations that accompany it. Try instead to actively turn the focus of your attention outwards for at least 4 or 5 minutes to reduce these symptoms. Your focus can be anything of your choosing. For example, focus on a picture in the room, noting every detail, the colours, shapes and shadows, the outlines of each item in the picture, what it reminds you of and so forth. You may become so absorbed that you experience a decrease in anxiety. If you rate the intensity of your anxiety before and after this technique, you can measure if it works for you!
Take small steps!
In the long run, avoiding what we fear can actually feed anxiety. We can instead gradually learn to approach what or whom we fear by taking only small steps in the right direction so success is gradual and fear lessened incrementally. Try making a list of the gradual steps needed to make progress so you remain in control and don’t feel pressurized to move too quickly through the steps. For example, here is an example of steps to tackle anxiety about an upcoming interview:
- Research company and prepare answers to possible questions
- Practise giving answers alone at home and imagine self in the situation with all going well
- Practise process with my husband
- Practise process and less familiar angles with a colleague
Complete steps 1 to 4 slowly until she experienced no anxiety, then confidently proceeded to interview.
Finally, it is worth considering that if we always do what we have always done, then we can only expect more of the same! Why not try some of these anxiety- busting strategies instead? Always rate your anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10 before and after any of these techniques, so you can measure how well each works for you!
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