Five Effective Tools for Coping with Anxiety

Coping with Anxiety Outside of Therapy

Anxiety: You never know quite when it is going to creep up, but when it does, it is so hard to stop.  Anxiety can take over everything.  We have all been there.  Lying awake at night staring at the ceiling trying to no avail to turn your brain so you can go to sleep.  You may even find yourself at a point where the anxiety is so overwhelming that it takes over your waking hours as well. In theses case, professional help is often required to solve the anxiety riddle.

But what about the times in-between therapy or psychiatric appointments? Here are a few methods that you can try to keep your anxiety level down either between visits to your therapist, or until you can find the right therapist for you.

1. Learn to Accept Anxiety

While it is unnecessary to live with overwhelming anxiety all the time, there are going to be times of stress in your life.  You are going to anxious sometimes.  Hiding from it or trying to ignore it is not going to make it go away.  People often develop a fear of becoming anxious, and that fear of anxiety simply serves to make the anxiety worse.  Learning to accept that being anxious is a part of life can provide some degree of relief in an of itself. In fact, the concept of acceptance is pivotal to a lot of schools of therapeutic thought, such as DBT. Like with most problems, anxiety can not be addressed until you accept that it is there and will not be going away without putting in the work.

2. Think Happy Thoughts

This may sound like a silly piece of advice. To be clear, you do not have to be one of those people who is “rainbows and sunshine” all the time.  Keeping your thoughts positive can have a real impact on your level of anxiety. And there are ways to train yourself to think more positively. Mindfully focusing on small pleasures, like food or music, when anxious is one approach. Positively reframing events or situations that are anxiety-inducing is another. There is also the notion of “fake it till you make it” – that acting positively outwardly influences how you feel internally. Eventually, you might actually start to believe some of the more positive things that you tell yourself.

3. Recognize False Alarms

If you are the only one who has been home and you checked the stove before you left the house, there is no reason to go back to make sure that it is turned off.  If you tested the doors to your car before you walked away, there is no reason to go back and check again.  If you are engaging in physical activity, it is normal for your heart rate to be elevated.  Many of the thoughts we think of as calls for concern, or even reasons to panic, are just background noise.  These thoughts should come and go like a passing train.  Learn the difference between something that you do need to worry about and something that you do not.

4. Use Yoga and Meditation

Yoga and meditation go hand in hand.  Both have the ability to help with coping with anxiety.  Doing yoga gives you so much to focus on that you do not have time for anything extraneous.  In yoga practice, you focus on clearing your mind, holding postures, and connecting your breath with the movement of your body.  All of these things  require being present, leaving little room to think about anxiety or stress.  Meditation works in much the same way , just within your mind.  At the beginning of a meditation practice, you are often asked to focus on one thing and clear the rest from your mind.  You can also practice mindfulness meditation, where you let your thoughts control themselves and come and go without focusing on any of them.

5. Exercise and Physical Activity

Many people who have trouble with anxiety do not engage in enough physical activity.  Physical activity improves the immune system and releases endorphins.  It makes your body tired and helps to eliminate stress hormones.  Like yoga and meditation, exercise also keeps your mind busy dealing with external stimuli. Therefore it does not allow for much time for dwelling on your anxiety.

Coping With Anxiety Can Be Difficult, But It Is Possible

There’s no question that dealing with high levels of anxiety and stress in your life can be difficult. It’s important to remember that stress is a normal human response. By always keeping that in mind, and employing these tools to keep your anxiety at bay before and after you begin receiving assistance from your therapist, it can be more manageable. Coping with anxiety may prove difficult, but with these tools and help from trained professionals, it can also be overcome.

Dr. Raul J. Rodriguez

Dr. Raul Rodriguez

DABPN, DABAM, MRO