Recovery Help Now | Anxiety Be Gone: Tools to Reduce Anxiety by Anna McClelland, LMFT
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Anxiety Be Gone: Tools to Reduce Anxiety by Anna McClelland, LMFT

rhn-reflecttimeEveryone experiences anxiety at times. For example, it’s normal to feel anxious before a job interview or when an assignment is due. This kind of anxiety is normal. Anxiety is a problem when our body reacts as if there is danger when there is no real danger. Some anxiety stressors are: work, school and personal demands. People who struggle with anxiety tend to live in the future, predict the worst and magnify the importance of negative events. They are generally approval seekers (worry about what other people think) and/or perfectionists (assume that any mistake means total failure). If you think you suffer from more than a normal amount of anxiety, following are some tips to help manage your anxious feelings:

Lifestyle

Eat well-balanced meals: Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.

Limit alcohol and caffeine: which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.

Get enough sleep: When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.

Exercise daily: to help you feel good and maintain your health.

Planning and time management: Purchase a calendar and schedule time for all your appointments and projects.

Organization: Designate a specific place to keep important documents and correspondence.

Thoughts and Behaviors

Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? When you are feeling anxious and panicky, you are probably ignoring certain problems that need to be dealt with. Review your life and try to get in touch with the situation that’s making you feel so upset. When you find the courage to deal with the problem more openly and directly, it can be liberating.

Write in a journal: when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, look for a pattern.

Accept that you cannot control everything: Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?

Daily Mood Log: Write down the negative thoughts that make you feel anxious or frightened. Identify the distortions in these thoughts and replace them with more realistic, positive thoughts. Instead of worrying yourself sick, by predicting failure and catastrophes, tell yourself that things will work out reasonably well.

The Cost Benefit Analysis: Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of worrying and avoiding whatever you fear. Weigh the advantages against the disadvantages. Make a second list of the advantages and disadvantages of confronting your fears. Weigh the advantages against the disadvantages.
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Distract Yourself: Distract yourself with intense mental activity (like working on a Rubik’s Cube), strenuous exercise, or by getting involved in your work or hobby.

 

Self-acceptance: Learn to appreciate ALL of you- good and bad: NO ONE IS PERFECT!

Appreciating Flawed Friends Exercise: Think about one of your good friends with whom you spend a lot of time, someone you enjoy and value, and someone you’ve known for a while. Picture that person in your mind and recall some of the good times that you’ve spent together. Think about how much you appreciate this person and how your life is enriched by this relationship.

In a notebook or piece of paper- make two columns: Positive Qualities and Negative qualities and imperfections.
First column, write down the positive qualities
In the second column, describe a couple of the negative qualities or imperfections that your friend has
Realize that you’ve always known about your friend’s negative qualities and imperfections, yet you’ve continued to appreciate your friend. Perhaps you even find some of the flaws amusing or interesting.

Try applying the same perspective to yourself. Appreciate your little flaws, foibles, and quirks. They make you interesting and unique. Be a friend to yourself. Notice your gifts and your imperfections. Figure out how to acknowledge it all as one package. Don’t disown your flaws.

Welcome humor: A good laugh goes a long way. Hang out with good friends that make you laugh.

Stop avoiding/warrior technique: Stop and allow yourself to experience the uncomfortable feelings that trigger your desire to avoid, take a breath and imagine you’re a warrior, then push through the resistance by doing the uncomfortable task.

Mindfulness Techniques
Radical Acceptance: When you are feeling anxious allow the feelings to arise without judgment/criticism and resistance.
Remember: Pain x Resistance = Suffering
Useful Acronyms:
STOP- Responding vs Reacting
S- Stop
T- Take a breath
O- Observe
P- Proceed

 

HALT- Factors which will influence your perception
H- Hungry
A-Angry
L-Lonely
T-Tired

RAIN- Working with Strong Emotions
R- Recognize
A- Acknowledge
I- Investigate (curiosity)
N- No Identification

Meditation/Breathing:

Take deep breaths: Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Positive Imaging: Substitute reassuring and peaceful images for the frightening daydreams and fantasies that make you feel so anxious.

Safe Place Exercise: Sit somewhere where you feel safe and comfortable. Close your eyes and think of a place, real or imagined where you feel safe and happy. Conger up all the details of this place including the smells and visual details- what you are doing, feeling smelling and seeing. Find 5 minutes a day to meditate on this image until you can conger it up whenever you are feeling highly anxious

Sitting Meditations:

Start with 5 minutes and work up to 20 minutes a day:

Following your Breath: Sit quietly, in a comfortable chair with your feet on the ground and your back against the chair. Rest your hands in your lap. Close your eyes, or keep them open slightly, just enough to see your lap. With ought forcing your breath, focus on your breathing- in and out, in and out. Notice your breath rise in your chest and stomach. If your mind wonders, notice (without judgment) and go back to breathing.

Observing Sounds: Sitting quietly, focus your attention on any sounds that you hear: the sound of your breathing, the sound of people talking in the next room, the sound of air coming through the vents, the sound of the television in the next room, and so on. When you notice your mind wandering, notice it without judgment, then return your attention to whatever sounds enter into your awareness.

Observing an Object: Pick up an object, such as a framed photo, a knickknack that sits on the mantle, a piece of jewelry, or a child’s toy, and observe it mindfully. Examine the object with all your senses, focus all your attention on the item. Experience the sensation of touching it. Notice any smell it might have or any sound it might make as you move it around I your hands. When you notice your mind wondering to other things, bring your attention back to observing the object without judging yourself.

 

Being in Your Body: Sitting quietly, focus on different sensations you experience in your body. Notice, for example, the feel of your bottom on the chair or the feel of your arms against the armrests. Observe any tension you may have in your muscles. Notice that you feel cool or that your face feels hot. Acknowledge any emotions you may be experiencing, such as anger about the situation that happened earlier or frustration because your finding it difficult to do this exercise. When your mind takes you away from observing physical sensations, simply bring your attention back to the exercise and let the other thoughts go.
Loving Kindness Meditation:

Sit quietly in a comfortable position and say out loud or to yourself:
May I be safe and protected from inner and outer harm
May I be truly happy and deeply peaceful
May there be ease in every aspect of my life
May I love my life completely- just as it is

The Three phases:
Loving kindness toward yourself
Loving kindness toward a friend
Loving kindness toward a neutral person
Loving kindness toward a “Difficult Person”
Loving kindness toward all beings

Relaxation:

Progressive muscle relaxation: One method of progressive muscle relaxation is to start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. You can also start with your head and neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.

Additional Resources:

UCLA mindfulness Awareness Research Center:
http://marc.ucla.edu/

Insight LA:
www.insightla.org
http://www.insightla.org/audio/

 

Elana Clark-Faler
elana@recoveryhelpnow.com