By: Elizabeth Clements
Tips and Tricks for Anxiety Management
Anxiety is an awful feeling. One thing to remember is that anxiety is often driven by our thoughts. The more negative thought patterns we engage in, the more debilitating the anxiety will become. Anxiety ranges in intensity. Some people might experience anxiety as a nervous feeling while others might feel a full range of symptoms such as racing and intrusive thoughts, elevated heartbeat, shortness of breath, and the feeling of fainting. No matter where you are on the spectrum, there are a few tips and tricks that you can practice to help ease anxiety.
The first tip is to recognize how your anxiety feels and what thoughts you are thinking when you begin to feel the attack. Once you begin to recognize what proceeds your anxiety, you can begin to learn to redirect the foundational thoughts. This allows you to distract yourself from the thoughts that feed your anxiety. For example, a student has a very important test at the end of the week. The student believes he knows the material well enough to pass but the thought of sitting at the desk and taking the test makes his heart race. His heart beats so fast he feels like he cannot catch his breath. In this example, the thought of taking the test is the foundational thought proceeding the anxiety he feels.
One trick the student might benefit from is deep, intentional breathing. Yes, we breathe all day long to survive, however this process is automatic, and we are not intentionally thinking about the steps we are taking. When the student begins to think about taking the test and feels his anxiety rise, he can recognize the thought, then begins his breathing. The intentional breathing should start with your eyes closed while breathing in through your nostrils. You should be present in this moment thinking about how the air feels as it passes through your nose. Next the student will begin to fill his lungs with air starting with filling the deepest part of his lungs. Once he cannot bring anymore air, he will begin to exhale through his mouth. As the air passes out of his mouth, he is going to exhale like he was trying to fog a mirror with his breath with the outbreath being slightly longer than the inbreath. This process should be repeated three to five times, or until you feel less anxious. This trick helps distract the brain from the thought that was causing the anxiety while bringing you back to the present moment.
Another trick the student might try is naming physical objects within his immediate environment. Again, this trick helps redirect the thought process. While the student is taking the test, he might become anxious that the moment has finally come. The student can name three physical objects he sees five times. For example, the student might say to himself, “I see a green chalkboard, a brown desk, and one window.” He would repeat this phrase while looking at each object five times. This redirection of thought aids in bringing us back to the present while lessening the anxious thought.
If you experience anxiety, I invite you to try these tricks. Make them your own by adding positive thoughts about yourself to the breathing technique. Pick three things in your life that make you feel happy and calm and use those as intentional thoughts when using the object naming technique. If you or someone you know needs assistance in managing their anxiety, please reach out to Samaritan Counseling, Michigan City Indiana (219.879.3283), and connect with a professional.