I work with the majority of my clients to manage their [varying degrees of] anxiety. I thought I'd share some of my favourite anxiety management strategies that I have learned over the past seven years in my career as a counsellor.
Some common presenting symptoms of anxiety are: short of breath, racing heart, shaking/trembling hands, sweating, difficulty concentrating or focusing, feeling lightheaded, feeling restless or on edge, difficulty sleeping, worrying and racing thoughts. Do any of these sound familiar? READ ON!
The below strategies can be applied for something small like feeling a little nervous to something bigger like a panic attack.
1) Literally GROUND yourself. Plant both of your feet flat on the ground, push them gently and allow yourself to feel the weight of your body resting on your feet. Not enough? Try alternating your weight from one foot to the other, or from your toes to your feet, and back again to both feet firmly on the ground.
2) Belly breathing. When you are anxious, you are usually taking short, shallow breaths. Belly breathing brings your energy down, deep into your body, which can help alleviate your anxiety - when you are anxious, almost all of your energy is way up in your head. First, notice your breath. Is it shallow? With your next breath, bring it deeper into your body, and your next breath deeper again, until you are breathing all the way into your belly or lower back. Continue until you notice your symptoms of anxiety easing up.
3) Connect to all 5 senses. Name 5 things that you can see, 4 things that you can physically feel (eg: your clothes against your body, your breath moving in and out of your nose/mouth), 3 things that you can hear, 2 things that you can smell, 1 thing that you can taste.
All of these can be used together! Start with grounding your feet on the ground, move into belly breathing, and then connect to all 5 senses. What I like about these strategies is that they bring your focus and energy into your body and they connect you to the here-and-now. Anxiety is often linked to fear of something that has happened in the past or fear of something in the future, so doing anything to bring your focus and awareness into the present moment can be helpful.
Another strategy to consider: get a reality check around what you are feeling anxious about, or check in with yourself if you need to be thinking about whatever is causing the anxiety in that moment. Give yourself permission to come back to it when you are adequately supported to deal with what came up.
If you tried these, I'd love to hear how they worked for you! Please leave a comment below. :)
Something to keep in mind: these are not one-size-fits-all. Every person responds differently to their triggers and to their grounding strategies. I recommend testing a few out and finding the ones that work best for YOU. For long-term management of anxiety, I recommend seeking support from a professional to help you address the underlying issues of your anxiety.
Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.