A Therapist’s Tips for Managing Anxiety

You, me, our family, friends, and loved ones; we all have something in common – we experience emotions. Now everyone experiences and expresses emotions differently, but one thing is for certain, everyone experiences them. Out of the many emotions the average person experiences, there are a few that cause a pretty significant amount of discomfort. One of those is anxiety.

Ask someone about a time they’ve felt anxious and they’ll probably tell you about asking someone out, a time they had to speak in public, when they got caught by their parents and got in trouble, or when they got pulled over by the police. All of those certainly can cause the feeling of anxiety. Here’s the thing though, some people experience anxiety on a whole other level.

Some people’s anxiety is so intense it stops them from being able to think straight. Some people’s anxiety is so frequent, it stops them from wanting to leave their house.

Chances are, if you’re reading this article, it’s because you feel anxiety a little too often or a little too intensely for your liking. Chances are, you want to figure out a way to reduce your anxiety and take back control.

So, what can anxiety feel like?

Well, anxiety can be a little different for everyone. But one of the most common feelings people with high levels of clinical anxiety report is like a lightening storm in their head. Thoughts are flashing in their head and they can’t make it stop. They often feel like they can’t turn their brain off, even when they try really really hard to distract themselves or think about something else.

It’s also pretty common for someone to talk about how they can’t do anything else because all they can think about is what’s making them anxious. One other thing people with anxiety talk about feeling is how they are afraid they’re going to get an anxiety attack at any random time.

Tips and Tricks to Manage Anxiety

#1. Control Your Breathing

When you get really anxious, it’s common that your breathing will become quick and shallow (hyperventilating). This is your body thinking that you’re under attack and it needs to prepare for battle (or run away). Here’s the thing though, you can influence (and trick) your brain into calming down by controlling your breathing.

When we slow our breath down, it sends a signal to the brain that we’re calm (because slow and controlled breathing is the opposite of being excited or anxious). If we’re calm, our brain realizes that we don’t need to be so afraid of whatever is making us anxious and it slows down. A great and simple way to control your breathing is to slowly fill your lungs over the course of 3 seconds, and slowly empty your lungs over the course of 3 seconds. Repeat that for one minute.

#2. Use a Coloring Book

Go out and buy an adult coloring book (yes, they exist) and some colored pencils. The more detailed the designs, the better!

The reason this works is because it takes a decent amount of effort to actually color within the lines, choose what colors you’d like to use, and to focus on the pattern. The first couple of minutes might be really hard to concentrate on the drawing, but stick with it. Before you know it, you’ll be so focused on the coloring that you’ll stop thinking about what is making you anxious.

The reason this works is because our brain literally cannot focus on more than one thing at a time (sorry, multitasking doesn’t actually exist). So, when we focus on coloring, we are blocking our brain from thinking about anything else.

#3. Sing Along to Music

Pick one of your favorite songs and sing along! You can also pick a song that you’re not as familiar with and work to learn the lyrics. When you focus on singing the lyrics, you’re going to prevent your brain from thinking about what is making you anxious.

Singing is also a great way to naturally regulate our breathing! Your body will adapt to filling your lungs with air while you sing, and you’ll slowly be exhaling as your belting out those tunes too.

(This works the same way as coloring; our brains cannot multitask.)

I hope these tips and tricks are helpful for you in getting some control back in your life against anxiety. If you feel like you’d like to talk some more about your anxiety, or want to learn some other tips that are more specific to you, give me a call or send me an email. I’d love to hear from you and help you.