How Do You Handle Anxiety?

I’m never sure when it’s going to strike: that niggling doubt that turns into a stomach ache or stabbing pain in my right side; the sense of dread that tightens my lungs and chest so that it’s hard to breathe; the tension that accumulates in my shoulders, neck, jaw, and temples; heart palpitations; reflux . . . The list goes on.

Never good, never fun. But I know I still have to follow through with commitments I’ve made, so it’s not like I can go hide from the world when it hits (well, not always; there are some things I can beg out of, but those things are few and far between). I have to suck it up and do life, regardless of how I feel.

It makes following through on commitments harder, especially when I can’t ignore it. But I still have to acknowledge what I’m feeling — name it and own it. Then I have to work on containing or defeating it. It doesn’t get to run my life, so I have to find a way to overcome. Easier said than done, right?

Some of my strategies include:

  • praying for calmness, insight, wisdom, forgiveness, or whatever fits the situation that’s making me anxious;
  • telling myself that what I’m feeling is not reality, it’s my mind blowing things out of proportion;
  • telling myself to breathe, and focusing my breathing on expanding my belly and chest, where the tension lies;
  • using essential oils with calming or pain relieving properties (yes, I’m one of those oily people, but I find they do work for me especially for headaches);
  • doing whatever it is I’m anxious about, no matter how lousy I’m feeling (this one is the hardest, especially when the anxiety becomes paralyzing);
  • exercise, or some form of physical activity that loosens up the ball my body wants to become;
  • listening to music that fits the mood I either need or want to be in. Sometimes I need quiet music that sparks my imagination and let’s my mind wander away from whatever’s weighing on my mind, but sometimes I need angsty, heavy, or loud, to help purge the lousy thoughts and get something done (usually the dishes).

Those are my coping skills used most often. If you’re reading this and have problems with anxiety, depression, or other mental states that you have to fight to defeat, what are your coping mechanisms?

I’ll probably write more about this later, but I have to go be a responsible adult and get some things done so we’re not late this morning (something else I’ve had to create coping mechanisms for, because time doesn’t work in my head like it’s supposed to).

Have a lovely Thursday!

2 thoughts on “How Do You Handle Anxiety?

  1. These are all good strategies, and I find, for me at least, I have to mix them up. The same strategy doesn’t work the same every time. Sometimes the only thing I can do is sit tight, take no action, and ride it out. It’s the least productive, but sometimes it’s all there is and I have to forgive myself for my stasis.

    One other strategy I employ is misdirection. I try to fool my brain into thinking that I’m not facing what’s in front of me. I have a recent illustration.

    There was an event I was to attend, with some trepidation, but my wife was coming along so I had support. The night before, our childcare fell through when my father-in-law broke a rib. I would be going alone. I was in full terror panic and figured I wouldn’t make it.

    The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed at the last minute and got dressed. Everyone gets dressed; it doesn’t mean I’m going. Then I took my son to the bus stop because I had the day off and got into my car on the way back instead of going inside. No one’s home, and I might as well go out; it doesn’t mean I’m going. A nice long drive later, and near the event, I’ve still made no commitment; I could always grab lunch and head back. The same non- commitment ruled the parking lot, until I eventually found myself inside. I had broken it down into a series of noncommittal actions until all that was left to do was walk in the door.

    To be fair, I still barely managed that.

    1. That’s a tactic I hadn’t thought about! Though I’m pretty good at talking myself out of things, so that’s probably why I haven’t done it. But I can see how it would take the pressure off enough to make it easier to take the next step.

      I’m glad it worked for you, and I’m sure there were people who were happy to see you at that event. 😉

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