When anxiety strikes…

When anxiety strikes, what do you do? I’ll tell you what I do…

For me, the most important things are distraction and relaxation, and when one fails, the other usually succeeds. It’s not an overnight solution, at least in my case, as it took some time to get acquainted with these methods. Well, I say methods, but they’re actually two very basic descriptions of a whole host of methods.

I’ll assume you know what it means to relax and be distracted, but have you ever given much though into how one might relax and stay distracted when it comes to anxiety? I have! Through necessity rather than interest.

I’ve had a lot of crappy experiences with anxiety—haven’t we all—so I think it’s best if I explain by example of situations I may typically end up in or have at some point been in.

This one actually came from a psychologist. There is a potentially good way to distract yourself, particularly with social anxiety, in that you’re typically very internally focused, in other words, stressing about how you look, what you’re doing, how you sound, etc. When I go out, say, to the shops and I’m super stressed for whatever reason, what I can do is focus my attention over to some random object that may or may not be interesting. See that lamp over there? Oh wow, that’s the single most interesting thing I’ve ever seen! Dear Lord, look at the way the shadow is cast on the ground; isn’t that fascinating? No, probably not, but it’s distracting and takes away some of the internal focus.

Because I love German so much, I take the opportunity to get maximum distraction by practicing it while I’m out and about; works wonders. You don’t obviously need to be learning another language for that to be effective to you, but it’s certainly a good option, particularly as it can prevent escalation of rumination as you’re thinking in an entirely different language, so it’s harder to think in your own language while thinking about what to think in another language! Unless of course you’re fluent, then perhaps it’s not so difficult. The same idea can be transferred over to practicing your math skills, or lack thereof. If you’re a bit poetic, you could try coming up with some good poetic lines which you could jot down later, … or forget as the case will often be. The point is, take that focus away from whatever is stressing you out, be it internal or external, and focus on something interesting educational, and/or entertaining.

There’s a grounding technique I once picked up from someone who went through some pretty extreme ordeals a number of times, and I thought it was quite clever; I think it actually carries over to anxiety issues. Basically, a form of distraction and sometimes relaxation as well, is to activate your senses in a distracting way. You can light a smelly candle that takes you back to fun times or reminds you of tasty food, or you can listen to some epic music that gets you pumped up and feeling good. Whatever it is, make sure it awesome to you in some way or another. This particular grounding technique focused on touch, more specifically, tactile senses. Is there a small item you can take around with you that happens to have a texture you find nice and/or comforting? Consider shoving it in your pocket when you head on out somewhere or if you’re at home and stressing about something. When you’re stressed, have a jolly-good fiddle with your chosen object and maybe it’ll help!

Keeping yourself busy is a fantastic way of dealing with anxiety as per the distraction method. I’m a guitarist so for me to play the guitar when I’m anxious does absolute wonders! I recommend picking up an instrument if you’re not a musician and just see where it takes you. I’ve often referred to my guitar as an essential tool for my metal health. So, so many times over the years I would have lost it had I not the guitar waiting to be strummed and plucked.

I hope these few tips help you to better manage your anxiety. Be patient with yourself—don’t expect overnight miracles. learning to cope and manage problems like these takes time.

More thanks go to the supportive Facebook page Anxiety & Panic Disorders for sharing this article.

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