5 Steps To Overcome Anxiety
Anxiety is a word that most of us are familiar with in today's world. Whether the struggle is with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (Chronic Anxiety), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder (Panic Attacks), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia), Specific Phobia (anxiety when a particular object is present or event is happening), anxiety has touched everyone, either personally or through someone close to them. While some cases are an every day fight and others are rare occurrences of circumstance, anxiety can feel completely crippling when it happens to us. In some cases, medication is necessary in dealing with anxiety. In other cases it is not. In all cases though, when anxiety hits, all we want to do is make it go away because in an instant, we feel like we have lost all control of our body and mind.
I started experiencing anxiety and panic attacks around the age of 16 years old. I spent many years lost in the anxiety and felt hopeless to ever overcome it. Thankfully, I had an incredible support system who provided resources to help me begin my journey of overcoming anxiety. I'd love to tell you that once I put these tools in my 'tool belt', that I never experienced anxiety or had another panic attack ever again... but that would be a bold-faced lie... and that would be completely unhelpful to you as you begin your journey to healing, wholeness and joy. I will tell you that since learning and implementing these tools in the midst of anxiety and panic attacks, I have been able to feel more in control, know that anxiety will not overtake me, and trust that I am strong enough to get through it in any circumstance and situation.
This list is in no way an exhaustive list of tools, but it is a road map of basic steps that you can quickly and effectively implement when anxiety/panic sets in.
Anxiety is your brain's response to situations you find yourself in. In stressful situations, this is a totally normal response. Now that you have calmed your nervous system, this is your opportunity to recognize where you are and what is going on for you in this moment, and accept that this is what it is. This doesn't make you any less competent, intelligent and valuable. Mental health is a concept that most of us have heard of and attribute value to. If there can be health, that means there also can be mental illness... and it is just that... an illness. This means that an action is required in order to achieve health once more.
Find a spot to sit or lie down wherever you are... if you can leave the space that is causing anxiety, do, but if not, find a spot to sit down and close your eyes.
Place your hand on your abdomen, slowly breathe in through your nose for five seconds, then breathe out through your mouth for five seconds. Repeat five times. Place your focus on the movement of your hands as they rise and fall with each breath. You will now want to FOCUS!
Your priority is to connect with your five senses.
As you continue to slowly breathe, take note of the smells around you.
Taste your breath and imagine the taste of the things you have smelled around you.
Next, pay attention to the sounds you hear.
Now feel the textures of the floor beneath you/ the chair you are sitting on/ the clothes that you are wearing, any items in your pocket/ the jewelry you are wearing.
Lastly, slowly open your eyes to return to the room and visually observe everything that you have been taking note of through your senses. Place your focus on something in the room that brings you joy and calm.
Now that you have interrupted the anxiety thought pattern cycle, give your brain an easy task to focus on.
Count the items in the room that are your favourite colour.
Count backwards from your favourite number.
Recite the months of the year in reverse order.
Anxiety tells your brain that the circumstance you are in is catastrophic. It will take the facts of your situation and make you think that the way that you feel about those facts is as true as the facts themselves. Now that you have calmed your breath and focused your senses, You are in the right frame of mind to challenge the thoughts and feelings you experienced with the onset of the anxiety.
Identify your thoughts/feeling and pinpoint whether they are fact or feeling. This will help to decatastrophize the situation you are in and make it more manageable.
Once you have separated fact from feeling, you can now take the actions necessary to deal with the situation that you are in.