New Leaf Counseling Group
Anxiety and Ways to Cope
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Today we want to talk a little bit about the difference between being anxious a having a full-blown, debilitating anxiety attack. We have mentioned before that feeling anxious is a natural reaction to a perceived threat. Sometimes the fear of the unknown can cause it; sometimes, we're afraid that we'll embarrass ourselves or that we disappoint our loved ones. It's often not a problem. It can be uncomfortable, but it can also be an excellent motivator to work harder, study more, or keep moving forward.
Occasional feelings of anxiety are not a problem because if you view it as an emotion that you can move through.
On the other end of the spectrum, when anxiety isn't managed in a healthy way, anxiety attacks can occur. For some people, anxiety can spiral out of control, and their bodies release so many stress hormones that they experience anything from total isolation to frequent panic attacks. It is also often accompanied by severe physical symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, migraines, etc.
Treating these types of severe anxiety attacks is outside of the scope of this post. If you suspect you're suffering from this, please seek professional help immediately.
What we can address is the stuff in the middle. For example, if you find yourself worried and anxious frequently without it being a serious medical problem. Also, If your anxiety is impacting your sleep or ability to relax and enjoy life with your loved ones, we hope this post can help. If at any time you feel yourself spiraling out of control and towards a severe anxiety attack, don't hesitate to seek help.
For the next few blog posts, we're going to give you some tips on how to relax, put your thoughts into perspective, and calm down your nervous system. This can change your attitude from constant worry and fear, to looking forward to what the future brings.
However you stumbled across this blog post, think about what made what is bringing you here today. What made you seek out more information about the difference between anxiety and anxiety attacks? Think about how often you feel anxious on a given day, week, or even a month. Where do you think you fall between the spectrum of feeling a little anxious now and then, and debilitating, chronic anxiety?
Whether you feel like you need help or not, we could all benefit from a little less stress & anxiety and more relaxation.
Don't Panic – Take A Deep Breath
Getting hit by anxiety can be confusing, frustrating, and feel out of control. It can be frightening, and your first instinct may be to panic and worry, which can make the anxiety that much worse. Panicking doesn't help the situation, but when you feel heightened, it can be challenging to tell our brains that we're okay. Here is something you can do and our first tip for dealing with anxiety: take a deep breath.
The moment you feel anxiety, the best thing you can do is take some deep breaths. This will calm you down, get oxygen to your brain, and start to send the message that you're safe.
Fear and anxiety are not always as serious as we may think. When you are in actual danger, the feeling of fight or flight can save your life. However, when anxiety strikes, it's hard to understand the difference between reality and fantasy. A fast-beating heart, increased breathing, and a big boost of adrenalin are all things you can experience when you feel anxious. When you experience fear and anxiety about public speaking, bills you need to pay, or going on a blind date, those responses aren't helpful.
Secondly, when we are in this fight or flight state, it's hard to look at the situation rationally. It's difficult to objectively judge danger and make rational decisions when one feels anxious and stressed out. Everything feels much worse than it is when you are in this state of mind. Furthermore, when you are constantly in this state of mind, it is physically exhausting. If you're tired all the time, getting in tune with your anxiety levels is a great first step in feeling rested. That's why it's essential to start by doing what you can to calm down.
This is why our first tip for calming your anxiety to simply take a deep breath.
You can take deep breaths anywhere, anytime. When you feel anxiety rise, stand or sit comfortably, close your eyes if possible, and slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat this practice a few times until you can feel yourself starting to calm down. We'll be talking more about breathing exercises in our next post, but this is a great way to start.
As with most things, this becomes easier and more natural, the more you practice. Taking time to notice your anxiety and breathe through it is a habit that will need to be formed, but it will become second nature with time. Let in the habit of closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths whenever you start to feel a little anxious or wound up. It also helps do this breathing exercise when you first wake up, before you start work, and even before bed. Start practicing and keep up with it until it becomes a habit.
Going forward, whenever you get anxious or fearful, your first reaction should be to stop and take a deep breath. After you calm your breathing, you should be able to look at the situation more clearly and be able to judge if there is something rational to your worry. You'll also find yourself calm and collected enough to start making a plan and working through whatever issues arise, instead of merely reacting from a feeling of anxiety.