What Does my Anxiety Look Like?
Although I look fairly confident on the outside, I tend to struggle with anxiety pretty heavily. So, when I say I joined a new gym this week BY MYSELF, I’m also saying I stepped way outside of my comfort zone and simultaneously raised my anxiety level from a 2 to a 12. I am not the type of person that just does things on her own. I tend to find a person, wait for them to commit to what I want to do, then jump holding their hand. I hate going new places, not knowing what to expect, and not having a safe person to look to in case I begin to panic. But, I knew I needed to do something to release my stress and find a new self-care outlet (because if you read my last blog, self-care is a big deal for me!), so I committed to a gym membership.
Immediately after my credit card was charged, the thoughts began circulating through my head. I began to worry that I wasn’t fit or flexible enough to be a member of a yoga studio; I also worried that my workout clothes weren’t cute enough to be accepted into their gym family. And once I registered for my first class, the physical aspects of anxiety joined the party. I could feel the stress building up in my shoulders as I kept them clenched tightly, my stomach felt like it was flipping, and my headache started pulling down into my neck.
Despite all these anxious thoughts, I knew joining this gym was a good thing. Luckily, I counsel people through anxiety almost daily. I know different coping skills and calming techniques that
many people don’t (or maybe they do, but don’t know how to access them in times of need). As I paced around my house the morning of my first class, I started going through my list of coping skills to calm myself and make sure I made it to Zumba. I’ll jump straight to the end of this story: I made it to Zumba and had a great time. Here are a few coping skills I used that morning that you could use in whatever situation you are facing.
Tips for Managing Your Anxiety
DEEP BREATHING. By slowing down your breathing, you begin to release some of the physical aspects of anxiety. Taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, refocuses your energy. Instead of the anxious thoughts and feelings being at the forefront of your mind, they begin to be replaced by your controlled breaths and a slower heartbeat.
THOUGHT CHALLENGING. When anxious thoughts race through my brain, I have begun trying to challenge them. I ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I usually respond with something over the top and ridiculous in attempts to help that part of my anxiety dissipate. Then I ask, “What’s the best that could happen?” I work through different really great scenarios to increase my excitement level and begin feeling more positive about the situations. Finally, I ask, “What’s the most likely outcome?” and I discuss how I will handle it. Challenging my thoughts allows me to have control over my emotions and actions, rather than letting anxiety take the wheel.
ASKING FOR ENCOURAGEMENT. This one is actually really hard for me. I don’t like to let people know I’m struggling. However, I’ve learned that letting myself lean into vulnerability actually decreases the amount of anxiety I’m feeling. It takes the power away from fear and gives it back to me. Letting others know I’m struggling also gives them the freedom to join me in not being perfect, ultimately creating an atmosphere of acceptance. It gives me wiggle room to make mistakes, take a time out, and start again.
ESSENTIAL OILS/RELAXING SMELLS. I’ve recently discovered the power of essential oils. Some research has shown that smells like Lavender, Bergamot, and YlangYlang can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms when diffused in the air or appropriately applied to the skin. The all natural remedies can help lower one’s stress levels, decrease blood pressure and heart rates, as well as promote balance and mindfulness to ward off anxiety when situations become overwhelming. While I highly recommend essential oils for myself and my family, it is important to know many of the oils are not FDA approved yet. If you are unsure about what oils are safe to use or if they would be helpful for you, please consult with someone educated in oil use before getting started.
JOURNALING. Writing your thoughts out on paper helps you get a better understanding about what’s going on. It allows you to physically see your thought patterns and begin to recognize negative self-talk. It also helps you sort through all the junk to recognize what the real issues are and how you can begin to work through them. Journaling doesn’t have to be difficult; you simply write what you’re thinking. If you do it consistently enough, you can begin to see different triggers or patterns in your life that need to be worked on. It also allows you to displace your anxieties somewhere other than in your head, so you can move on to more productive and positive thinking.
I’m sharing these tips with you in hopes that they help you overcome your anxiety as I did mine. I will also mention that practicing these tips when you aren’t anxious will only increase their effectiveness and accessibility when you are.
While my anxiety may feel overwhelming to me, it isn’t debilitating most days. Whether my situation resonates with you or you feel like your anxiety can be more crippling, any work with a therapist can help you conquer those stressful moments. Give us a call at (832) 421-8714 we’d love to help you work out anxiety!