Anxiety is a normal human emotion and is adaptive ie it is not bad for you in its intended form, that of preparing us for danger or a difficult situation. It is not achievable to cease having any anxiety. Anxiety symptoms are believed to be triggered by what is known as the “fight or flight or freeze response” (FOFR). This is an automatic response to danger (both real and perceived) and results in the releasing of chemicals into the body causing a range of anxiety symptoms. However, the FOFR is problematic when triggered by situations that pose us no real danger such as walking in to a room and fearing judgement. In other words it is your thinking that creates most of your anxiety. The basic steps for managing anxiety are as follows:
1.FEAR can be thought of as FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL. Therefore just because you feel afraid does not mean there is a real threat. Put simply, feelings do not equal facts. It is our thinking that often creates how we feel, including fear.
- To reduce and manage the physiological symptoms of anxiety, use CONTROLLED BREATHING. One method is as follows:
- Breathe IN through your NOSE for 3 seconds (1-1000, 2-2000, 3-3000) Diaphragm expands
- Hold your breath for 2 seconds(4-4000, 5-5000)
- Breathe OUT through your MOUTH for 3 seconds (6-6000, 7-7000, 8-8000) Diaphragm deflates
- Say R-e-l-a-x to yourself slowly as you breathe out
- Anxiety sufferers typically have a number of bad thinking habits. They include overestimating the chances of a bad event occurring, overestimating how bad that event will be, underestimating their ability to cope with it, and overawareness of danger signs and bodily sensations. To challenge these thinking patterns use the following COPING STATEMENTS:
- “I will cope, no matter what”
- “Its only anxiety, and it will pass”
These statements are true when you really think about it. Granted you may not cope the way you want to or expect to but you are coping and will cope. These statements are best said with conviction and determination.
- DISTRACTION – Anxiety sufferers often focus their attention onto the very things which are distressing them most such as body symptoms. Therefore, anything that produces a shift in attentional focus will usually result in a drop in anxiety. Try the following distraction strategies: (A) Focus on an object describing it to yourself in as much detail as possible; (B) Focus on your surroundings as a whole – ask yourself what can I see, smell and hear around me? what can I taste?; (C) Mental Exercises such as counting back from 1000 in 7’s, or thinking of animals beginning with each letter of the alphabet; and (D) Being active.
- The urge to avoid when feeling anxious is high. Whilst you may feel better initially, avoiding too many situations will prevent you learning how to overcome the anxiety. As a general rule if your anxiety is 6 or below out of 10, try confronting the situation. It is best to confront your fears and build your confidence gradually than throw yourself in at the deep end. Follow the motto: FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY or FACE EVENTS AND RECOVER– in other words do not avoid the feelings of fear, confront them and the situations that create the fear. This is the best path to desensitising to fear.
- RELAXATION techniques are best used as a preventative technique. Ask further.