HOW TO OVERCOME & BETTER MANAGE YOUR ANXIETY
Anxiety. It is a seven letter word than can bring a lot of fear, stress, apprehension, and chaos in to our lives.
Anxiety is supposed to be the bodies natural way of dealing with stress and prepping us to go in to that ‘flight or fight’ mode if we are in the face of danger. Anxiety is something that is OK and healthy in small doses. It’s job is to keep us safe and prevent us from putting ourselves in a compromising position. However, our bodies ‘sense’ of danger can differ from person to person. We could have anxiety surrounding our first day of school, that new job interview, or having to present in front of a large group of individuals. Those are all healthy things to be a little bit anxious about. The issue arises when our sense of danger is flagging those items as being too ‘scary’ that we can no longer do them. That is when an anxiety disorder can come in to play.
You might be wondering how you can overcome your anxiety? Or be thinking, “Well yeah Sierra. Its easier said than done”. Trust me. I know how hard and debilitating it can be when in the midst of it. Today, I want to share my personal experience with anxiety, how I overcame it, and continue to manage it in the hopes that it can help YOU.
Anxiety came in to my life at quite a young age. My mom passed away from cancer when I was only five years old. Not being able to really remember her, or feel as though I said a proper goodbye, caused me to have a lot of unresolved grief (that until I received therapy!) manifested itself in a lot of anxiety. At only eight years old, I was afraid to have a sleepover at my friends houses. I couldn’t even spend the night at a grandparents house, or make it up to the cottage for a few days without my parents. I was so deathly afraid that something was going to happen to them, so I never left their side.
Thankfully, through a lot of trial and error, I was able to get rid of that separation anxiety. As the years went on, I managed okay. It was not until high school that I really experienced anxiety so full blown. I had a french teacher, who was quite rude. He would always pick on people in class and most of us were anxious about even stepping foot inside. One day, he called me up to the front of the class and straight up told me that I was going to fail. Everyone heard and it was the most embarrassing thing ever.
As someone who considers themselves to be more of a “perfectionist” this was like the worst thing I could ever hear. You might be thinking “Well that’s not so bad”. However, it really goes back to our bodies “sense” of danger. This situation was something that my mind escalated.
From there on out, I felt like a failure. I felt that I was not good enough, or could not achieve what I put my mind to. Those thoughts slowly turned in to me not being able to get out of bed in the morning, or even go to class. I was depressed and anxious. I was deathly afraid of a similar situation happening again. Every morning, or atleast once during the day, I would have a panic attack. It was a terrible time and I felt that no one really understood what I was going through. Thankfully, I have great parents who understood that something was going on and got me the help I needed.
I started seeing a therapist and learned a lot about what I was experiencing and my own personal mental health. I found better ways to manage my anxiety and challenge any negative thoughts that arose. Overall, it was a year of pushing myself, implementing what I learnt, focusing on self love and care, but I came out so much stronger. I took a volunteer trip to Costa Rica, got accepted in to College, and got hired onto a dream placement! I am so grateful to say that I kicked its ass and that it is something that no longer controls me. In the next few paragraphs, I wanted to share some of the tips and tricks that I learnt a long the way.
3 Tips to Overcome and manage your Anxiety
I know that anxiety is by far, not a “one box fits all” scenario. However, these three main tips helped me enormously and were what got me through it. I still implement some of these tools today when I notice that a situation may be causing me some stress. Hopefully some of these can help you!
Retrain your Thoughts
The key to targeting your anxiety is through your thoughts! One of the reasons that we get so stressed out about a situation is because of the thoughts that we are associating with it. By re-framing unhelpful or negative thoughts we are challenging our anxiety and actually re wiring our brain. This helps us to see the more realistic side of things and shut down those ‘what ifs?’.
Instead of saying, “I give up!” try “I will use some of the strategies I have learnt to get through this”. Instead of saying, “I am afraid that something bad will happen” . Try, “I can not predict what the future will bring, but chances are high that it will be great”. Or finally, instead of “I have been rejected, I am worthless”. Try, “It is better that I tried and failed than didn’t try at all. Who knows, maybe this could open more opportunities for me”.
If our self talk is filled with criticism and self doubt then we will slowly start to believe it. The conversations we have with ourselves impact how we feel and behave. Make sure you are being kind to yourself and challenge your thoughts!
When in the midst of a panic attack, or a stressful situation, you are not thinking clearly. Your body has gotten the signal to shut down and protect itself. During this time you might be shaking or trembling, your pupils are likely dilated, you could be crying, and not fully responsive to the questions or people around you. When this occurs, it is so important to learn tricks to ground yourself! Ultimately, the goal is to return to the present moment, reset your mind, and break that cycle of anxious thoughts.
One of these coping skills is the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique. If you ever find yourself in a stressful situation try this one out! First, you want to look around you. Find five things that you can SEE and label these in your mind. Next, find four things that you can touch. Physically grab or touch them if possible. After that, find three things that you can hear and note them in your mind. Next, find two things that you can smell. Finally, find one thing that you can taste. The goal of this activity is to bring us out of our head and back to the present moment. This is something I have done on many occasions and it has been incredibly helpful.
One other important tip if you are experiencing a panic attack is to focus on your breathing! Box breathing is a great technique to calm yourself down and ground yourself at the same time. You simply draw over the box with your finger and follow the steps of either inhaling for four seconds, holding, or exhaling. This is something I learnt while in therapy. Even without the sheet, you can draw a square on your lap or table. You can be anywhere to do this! I have included my own example for you here:
Meditation is also a great option to commit to daily. It helps to keep you in the right head space and acts as a daily grounding tool. YouTube has many guided meditations that you can watch on your phone or Smart Tv. There is also a great app called HeadSpace that has tutorials and videos for beginners that want to learn how to incorporate meditation in to their day for 5,10,15 mins. I highly recommend that you check it out!
Ultimately, I would have never been able to get through my anxiety if it were not for the support from my family, or the help from my Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. I know anxiety can be a very overwhelming and scary thing, however, no one wants to live in it! Especially as humans, we need to check in with ourselves and realize when we need some assistance. Unfortunately, we are not superheroes! There is nothing to be ashamed of.
The sooner you tell a parent, peer, or family member what you are struggling with, the closer you are to getting the help you need. It might be scary but I promise that one small step can make a complete difference and put you closer to your goals. I encourage you all to please, please, please reach out to somehow if you are struggling! See a therapist, or talk to a social worker at your school. Ultimately, it will do nothing but set you on the right path for yourself!
I hope you were able to takeaway something from my story and these tips!
Be kind to yourselves.
Scroll to the bottom to comment.