Living with anxiety can feel so overwhelming and consuming. Your anxiety likely magnifies a seemingly insignificant event into a catastrophe. And even if you know your thoughts are irrational, you might still hold onto that tiny chance that everything bad will happen.
There might be times where you can push the anxiety to the side without paying it too much attention. In other cases, your anxiety may seem so powerful and defeating that you feel completely helpless to it.
No matter the severity of your condition, it's possible to feel better. Let's get into how you can cope.
Recognize Your Triggers
Whether it's a fear of failure or the fear of powerlessness, anxiety often stems from core beliefs about yourself and the world around you. Triggers are inevitable, but knowing these triggers in advance can help you prepare for how you want to cope with them.
If you aren't sure what triggers your anxiety, commit to spending a week taking inventory. Write down any person, place, or situation that evokes a sense of anxiety. Scale your anxiety from 0-10.
At the end of the week, reflect on your answers. What trends do you notice? For example, is your anxiety worse in the evening? Does it peak during the weekend? Are you more anxious when you are alone or with others?
Awareness is the first step. It's not your fault that you have triggers- however, you are responsible for learning how to cope with them.
Commit to Implementing Coping Skills
The concept of coping skills probably isn't new to you. After all, you've probably heard about the benefits of mindfulness or gratitude. Likewise, you know it's important to eat a nourishing diet and exercise regularly.
But how often are you actually practicing these skills? And if you do use them, do you genuinely believe that they can help you feel better- or are you just engaging with them haphazardly?
To reap the benefits of coping skills, you need to embrace a positive mentality. This means believing they can benefit you and believing that they can help decrease your anxiety symptoms.
You also need to schedule the time to use these skills. Schedule implementing them like you would schedule any other important appointment. If you wait to feel motivated, that motivation might never come. Instead, discipline yourself by dedicating specific blocks of time to take care of yourself.
Talk Back to Your Anxiety
Anxiety can be incredibly vicious and cruel- it probably tells you that you can't do this, or you shouldn't do that. It's often self-defeating and cynical, and it's easy to assume these faulty opinions are factual.
It's important to learn how to distinguish your anxiety voice from your actual needs and desires.
The next time your anxiety starts creeping in, pause. Ask yourself, What is my body telling me right now? How can I help myself feel safe? Howo can I take care of my needs?
Understanding cognitive distortions can help you talk back. For example, maybe you struggle with all-or-nothing thinking, and you assume if something isn't perfect, it's a complete failure. Or, perhaps you jump to conclusions- if someone doesn't answer a text right away, you are convinced it's because they don't like you.
Becoming more aware of your cognitive distortions- and taking a proactive stance to dismantle them- can help you feel more empowered. Consider working with a cognitive-behavioral therapist to learn more about the role cognitive distortions play in your life.
Stay Present As Often as Possible
Anxiety lives in the future. What if that catastrophic event happens? What if this decision today doesn't work out tomorrow? Anxiety is all about what lies ahead- the less you can focus on what you can't control, the freer you will feel.
Of course, staying present isn't always easy. You must commit to the effort and dedication it takes to bring yourself to the current moment. When you start obsessing about the future, take a deep breath. Practice a positive mantra like, I am right here, and I am focused on this moment.
Embrace doing single tasks at a time. For example, try to eat a meal without your phone or TV. When talking to a friend, give them your undivided attention. If you're doing a chore, try to just be present with that particular activity.
Consider embracing a routine meditation practice. Meditation can be as simple as devoting a few minutes each day to focus on breathing. Like most skills, meditation may not feel natural the first few times- keep practicing, and it will get easier.
Seeking Support When You're Living With Anxiety
Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience. But if living with anxiety affects your well-being, relationships, and physical health, you might benefit from more support.
At The Mental Health House, we provide comprehensive care and services for people struggling with various mental illnesses. We are here for you. Contact us today to learn more.