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Recognisethat you are anxious. This is the first step (it’s important to follow these steps in order). Learn to recognise the symptoms – tense muscles, rapid breathing, heart beating fast or however it shows up for you.
Then think ‘there’s my anxiety’. It’s important to acknowledge it rather than trying to push it away.
Rateyour anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10. You will probably find most times you aren’t at a 10.
Rememberthat anxiety comes and goes. It’s like a wave and you will come down as well as go up. Remember that your thoughts and therefore your anxiety are in your control.
Reflect.Here is where you get to the crux of the thoughts which resulted in anxiety. This will probably take a bit of practice. I find it helpful to write down the thoughts that led to the anxiety.
2. Challenge Unhelpful Thought Patterns
So, the last tip was to recognise the unhelpful thought patterns. The next step is to challenge them.
One way of doing this is by looking for evidence that contradicts your negative thoughts.
A couple of other techniques I find helpful are to
consider what advice I would give to a friend and
consider how important the issue will be in six months time
Try and identify whether any of your thought patterns are:
predicting the future (I know I’m going to fail the exam)
catastrophising (my partner hasn’t texted me back, they must be unconscious in the hospital. In fact, scrap that, they’re in the morgue)
mind-reading (I can tell she thinks I’m an idiot)
attaching negative labels to yourself (I’m such a failure, I can’t cope)
using ‘should’ and ‘what if’ statements (I should be able to handle this)
One technique I use which I find very helpful (with the added bonus it seems to send me to sleep) is ‘box breathing’. To do this you breathe in for a count of 8, hold for 8, breath out for 8, hold for 8. And then repeat 8 times.
No, I’m not going to tell you to go out and get some exercise. Although it does help many people, this is another area where one size doesn’t fit all.
I personally find that if I’m in the best of physical health, my anxiety levels reduce.
One of the best things I ever did for my mental health was to take a break from alcohol. The decrease in my anxiety levels has been dramatic.
That’s not to say I don’t still suffer at times, I do. However, I find the symptoms tend to be much shorter-lived (no more feelings of underlying dread for days on end) and I can manage them more easily.
It’s also a good idea to reduce caffeine intake, although I’m failing miserably at this one so do sometimes feel a bit jittery as a result!
Getting enough rest and sleep is also important. I know how hard it can be to sleep when your mind is racing. Here are some brilliant exercises to help if you can’t switch your brain off at night.
6. Find Something That Relaxes You
Again everyone is different here. I also find that what relaxed me last week might not relax me today! So I have a few things in my toolkit here.
I’m a big fan of meditation but I realise this isn’t for everyone.
A mistake a lot of people make with meditation, is thinking that they have to turn off their thoughts and have a completely blank mind. This definitely isn’t the case. Thoughts are natural. It’s noticing them and acknowledging them that is the key in meditation.