Anxiety Unveiled: What It Is and Proven Tools to Help You Cope Through It

What is Anxiety:

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns that brings added stress into our lives, but it is also one of the biggest challenges that goes unaddressed. If you don’t create coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety, it will bleed into other areas of your life. Let’s first identify what anxiety looks like, and then we can explore how to manage it.

Anxiety can manifest in so many different ways, some of the most common anxiety symptoms are: 

  • Racing hearts
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Stomach pains
  • Ruminating thoughts
  • Panic
  • Paralyzing fear
  • Numbness
  • Disconnection

This list goes on and on. While anxiety manifests in different forms, at the root of it all is fear – fear of failure, fear of death, fear of not being enough. And while it’s a universal experience, it looks different for everyone and may even look different for you depending on what is bringing you anxiety. That’s why it’s important to have multiple tools in your toolbox to work through it. It’s all about trial and error until you find what works for you. As you grow and change, so will your tools.

Before we talk about some coping strategies for anxiety, let’s establish a ground rule. We need to understand that anxiety will always be a part of us. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In healthy amounts, anxiety can help us achieve, warn us of danger, and push us out of our comfort zones. It’s important to accept that anxiety is a necessary part of being human, the goal is to work on minimizing its impact. 

How to Move Through It:

Ground Rule: I want to start with a ground rule before presenting the different strategies. The rule is we must learn to accept anxiety for what it is. Anxiety will never go away 100 percent (and we don’t want it to). In healthy amounts anxiety can be helpful, a tool in itself. It helps us achieve, warn us of danger, push us out of our comfort zones and grow. Okay, now that we’ve accepted that anxiety will always be a part of us, here are some strategies to help minimize impact.

Breathing Strategy:

YouTube has some great resources for different breathing techniques, like Bee Breath or Box Breathing, so you can have a visual to follow along. Centering yourself with your breathing is a great mindfulness exercise for anxiety. 

Box breathing:

1. Slowly breathe in, counting to four and noticing the air filling your lungs 

2. Hold your breath for four seconds 

3. Slowly exhale on a count of four 

4. Repeat until you feel grounded

Challenging Thoughts Strategy:

This strategy uses CBT techniques. Create an argument for AND against the thought. When an irrational or anxious thought pops up, invite it into the “courtroom” and evaluate the thought. 

Here’s an example-

Thought: That woman in the grocery store thinks I’m stupid because I forgot my wallet in the car. 

Solid factual evidence for: She saw I left my wallet in the car. 

Solid factual evidence against: She did not say that I was stupid. 

By challenging your thoughts, you can see that there’s often no evidence to support them.

Compassion Strategy:

Lastly, practice compassion. Anxiety can try to tell us that our fears are true, but we can teach ourselves that they’re not. The amazing thing is that when we understand this, we can start to teach ourselves that this isn’t the case. This is also an act of building self-esteem. Think about the example from the grocery store: 

When anxiety tries to tell me that the woman behind me thinks I am stupid because I forgot my wallet in the car, I can meet the fear where it is. I first can acknowledge what the anxious thought is trying to warn me of. Anxiety is trying to protect us, it is saying take cover, an insult might be coming. Then, I can remind myself that everyone makes mistakes, that I am human, and perfection is not expected. I can honor my intentions to be the best that I can be while also holding space for mistakes that WILL happen. When we meet our anxiety with compassion, we take away the fear of not being enough, being left, being alone. Compassion is power.

More content on anxiety that you may be interested in:

Meditation Podcast Episode

Joyful Movement Podcast Episode

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