7 Steps We Can Take in the Face of Anxiety


7 Steps We Can Take in the Face of Anxiety

What exactly is anxiety? Many people live with anxiety for a while before they realise what’s going on. Aside from being extremely debilitating, it can also be frightening and symptoms can mirror those of more serious complaints.

Anxiety can manifest in many different ways, but the most common symptoms  are:

  • shortness of breath,
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat,
  • exhaustion,
  • dizziness,
  • sweating or chills,
  • shaking,
  • chest pains,
  • nausea,
  • dry mouth,
  • inability to keep still,
  • numbness or tingling in parts of the body,
  • urge to go to the toilet,
  • muscle spasms,
  • visual disturbances,
  • a fear that you are going to die.

So what can you do if you find yourself in the middle of anxiety attack? Here are some quick and easy tools that you can use anywhere:

1. Counting

Count backwards from 100 in 3’s. You don’t need to say each number out loud, but it helps to visualise the number in your head as you count. This focuses the mind on something other than the cause of the anxiety.

2. Colouring

Focusing on the image, the lines and choosing the pencil colour will distract parts of your brain used for anxiety related mental imagery and will help to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.

3. Breathing

Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and then breath out through your mouth for 8 seconds. When we are anxious, our breathing tends to be rapid which signals to the brain that something might be wrong, so slowing our breathing helps us to regain control.

4. 5-4-3-2-1

This is a grounding technique that is very simple and effective. Start by naming 5 things that you can see in the room (books, TV, table), 4 things you can feel (feet on the floor, cushion behind your back), 3 things you can hear (wind in the trees, radio, voices), 2 things you can smell (coffee brewing, perfume) and one good thing about yourself.

5. Accept that you are anxious

Often the more we try and reject or ignore our anxiety, the feelings worsen, which then confirms to our subconscious that anxiety is intolerable. By sitting with and observing the feelings, it is easier for us to notice our thoughts and reactions. We can then start to question them to see if our concerns are real or unrealistic.

6. Use a calming visualisation

Close your eyes and picture yourself in nature, at a favourite place, or with your loved ones. Imagine the sights, sounds and smells you would experience in that place. Notice the temperature, how light or dark it is, your posture and as the thoughts come into your head, acknowledge them and allow them to float away.

7. Progressive relaxation

Close your eyes and focus on your toes, tense them for the count of 5 and then relax. Then move to your foot, again tense for 5 and release. Then your calf, your thighs, your buttocks and so on, until you reach the top of your head. The focusing of your mind on relaxation of your body, will help both the emotional and physical aspects of the anxiety.

Please note that the symptoms listed above may be signs of something more serious and therefore it is advised to always seek medical attention.

Further information on anxiety can be obtained in the following places:

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