Sometimes the worst stress comes from the things that are all too terribly familiar. There are times that anxiety can make even daily tasks seem insurmountable, even though I’ve done them countless times before. I know it’s something I can do, it’s just that in that moment it’s implausible, nigh on impossible I could do it again.
What makes simple tasks so hard?
What thoughts or behaviours prevent you from feeling confident about tasks you’re familiar with but which create anxiety regardless?
One incredibly common example for anxiety sufferers is picking up the phone to call a friend. Intellectually you’re aware you’ll probably have a great conversation. But anxiety magnifies every difficult emotion, negative thought or sign of hesitation.
If you want to stop feeling “spacey,” or you feel yourself slipping into the spiral of anxiety, try some of these helpful anxiety management techniques:
- Bring up today’s newspaper on the web, notice the date. Read something fun!
- Breathe slowly and steadily from your core. Imagine letting fear and worry go, evaporating along with each breath.
- Trace your hands against the physical outline of your body. Experience your own presence in the world.
- Call a friend and have a chat.
- If you are feeling ‘stuck’, change how you’re positioned. Wiggle your fingers, tap your feet. Pay attention to the movement: You are in control of what your body is doing, right here and now.
- Eat or drink something. Is it hot, or cold? Sweet, or sour?
- Meditate, if that’s OK for you. Otherwise use distractions like television or music to help settle down.
- Use your voice. Say your name or pick up a book and read the first paragraph you find out loud.
- Look at yourself in the mirror. Smile, even if that’s the last thing you feel like! How does that feel? What can you see? (If negative thoughts come to mind, write them down to look at later but let them go for now. You’re anxious enough as it is.)
- Write out what’s going on. Keep writing until you start to notice it makes a difference, lets some of the things you’re anxious about out.
- Take a shower/bath. Notice the sensations of the water.
- Write somebody you care about an email.
- Imagine yourself in a familiar, comfortable place. Feel the safety. Know it.
- Take a look outside. Count the number of trees and street signs.
- Exercise. Jump up and down on the spot. Try some gentle yoga, or ride a bike.
- Hold onto something comforting. Maybe a blanket or an old stuffed toy.
- Laugh. Even if that’s hard. Just the act of laughing about something, anything can break that spinning out of control feeling.
- When you’re not too stressed, make a list of the things that provoke your anxiety. Take it to your therapist and ask them to help you find ways to desensitize you to some of those things. Then those triggers won’t be quite so powerful, and your anxiety coping skills will work better.
- If you get PTSD flashbacks, when you’re feeling OK, make a list of the furniture in your home and what room it’s in. Give the list to a friend you can call to help you focus on what’s now and safe.
- List 5 really positive things in your life. Put the list where you’ll see it and remember that there’s more to the world than just panic and fear.
- Think about the last week. Was there a day you didn’t have so much anxiety? Remember how it felt to be less anxious than you are right now. What was different? What can change?
Once you’ve found which techniques help, make a list to put on your wall, or carry in your pocket.