My favorite approach with anxiety is to turn towards it and into it and challenge myself and clients to form a new relationship with their anxiety. Our instinctual response with anxiety is to fight it, ignore it, or run from it. Anxiety is inevitable, but suffering from our anxiety is not. This is mindfulness and acceptance based approach. The dictionary defines anxiety as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Anxiety is a typical and a normal response to stress. It becomes atypical or an anxiety disorder when your worry and nervousness becomes excessive, persistent, irrational, and it disrupts your daily functioning. Anxiety disorders are complex and before you diagnosis yourself with one, be sure to see a Licensed Professional Counselor or Doctor. I am going to share with you a few strategies to turn into your anxiety and face it head on. These strategies are for everyday anxiety and stress. Again, if you are concerned that your anxiety is more than the everyday worry and nervousness, I urge you to seek support from a professional.
Mindfulness and Acceptance Based Anxiety Strategies:
- Name it to Tame It (A Daniel Siegel Whole-Brain approach). Brain research has revealed that finding words for feelings deactivates the part of the brain (the amygdala) that initiates a stress response. When you are overcome by a strong emotion, Stop what you are doing, Take a deep breath and ground yourself in the present, Observe the feeling you are having and label it, Proceed with what you were doing.
- FACE it. We all experience anxiety, worry, and stress and it takes courage to consciously face it head on and accept that we are feeling overwhelmed. Face the emotion and feel it, Accept it nonjudgmentally in the here and now, Compassionately respond with kindness and understanding, Expect skillful action which means being in a grounded mindset to tackle the situation at hand. (Chris Germer pg.212 The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion
- Challenge your belief system about anxiety. If you believe anxiety is bad you are judging your anxiety and yourself and fueling it which can lead to panic. With kids I challenge them to label feelings as comfortable or uncomfortable versus good or bad, this is a challenge for adults as well. Again, anxiety is inevitable and is a reality we all face.
- Appreciate your capacity to be anxious with this insight from Chris Germer, “Anxiety is a fact of life. It protects us from danger. It is built into the nervous system and unavoidable.” Thank goodness we experience anxiety; it is a message that we are approaching danger. It becomes problematic when our brain raises false alarms about danger and we get hijacked by fear.
- Try this Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skill CARES and practice something calming everyday so that you set the stage for greater calmness in the future.
Calm, practice something calming every day, even if it is just 5 minutes a day. Arousal, monitor your body, thoughts, and feelings on a regular basis. Learn to notice when you are become aroused and catch it before it gets overwhelming. Relaxation, practice it every day. Exercise, get regular exercise. Sleep, monitor your sleep and listen to your body if you are not getting enough or sleeping too much.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt