By Jessica Phelps, LPC
There you are, lying in bed, worrying again. It’s late and you’re tired, but your mind won’t stop racing. It’s getting worse. You notice that you’re worrying almost all of the time, even about small things. You tell yourself, “It’s fine. Stop worrying.” But it doesn’t help. What can you do to make it more manageable? Here are 5 techniques you can use to better manage your anxiety:
1) Breathing techniques
The way you breathe is important, especially when you’re feeling anxious. Deep, shallow breathing will raise your heart rate, making you feel more anxious. It is important to take deep breathes and visualize air reaching all the way down to your belly button, holding in each breath for a couple of seconds before slowly breathing out. Take at least three deep belly breaths to feel its calming effects.
2) Grounding Techniques
Many times, when experiencing anxiety, we are not present in the moment. We’re lost somewhere inside our head. Grounding techniques help bring you back to the moment.
One example is 5,4,3,2,1. When using this tool, focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
3) Mindfulness Tools
Mindfulness tools are a combination of breathing and grounding techniques. They also help get you out of the worry and help you focus on the present. Some examples of mindfulness tools are focusing on your breathing or heartbeat, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). To perform PMR, you begin at the top of your head and focus on one set of muscles, such as the muscles around your eyes. Tighten for 3 seconds and release. Then you move to the next muscle group, like your cheeks, then down to your jaw muscles, working your way “progressively” down. Slowly move throughout all your muscles until you reach your feet. This tool helps calm and relax your body while also being present in the moment.
4) Talk to a counselor
There are several reasons to experience anxiety. Some examples include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Social Anxiety to name a few. Counseling can help you learn more tools, as well as dive into the reasons why you’re experiencing anxiety in the first place.
Medication can be a scary step to take, but it can be very helpful while learning how to use new tools. Similar to breaking your leg, you could need crutches as your body heals. Medication can be “a crutch” to help you get a handle on your mental health symptoms.