I love my morning ritual, my sliver of peace and quiet as the world around me sits still and the sun rises while I drink my first sip of coffee. I prefer to start every day like this and yesterday morning was no different, except it was very different. It started out just like every other day, with doing my morning mindfulness in my backyard. However, this time my neighbor decided to have a phone conversation in his backyard and before I even knew what was happening, the yelling and swearing began. My peace and quiet was over while I sat there and observed the conversation that my neighbor had with his phone and whomever was on the other side of it. The pressured speech, his raised voice, the swearing and yelling that followed all oozed with anxiety. We all have it, and can recognize it in others as well, but this was not supposed to happen at 6AM in my backyard…or was it? Was this yet another example of life as we all know it right now, and the anxiety we feel as a result?
Anxiety, while not enjoyable, is a normal human emotion intended for practical utilization and is generally innocuous. However, when feelings of dread, worry, or apprehension negatively impact your quality of life, you need to take the necessary steps to improve the situation. There are several techniques outlined below which you can employ to cope with anxiety. However, if you are experiencing acute depression or helplessness you should seek professional attention immediately.
1. Master deep breathing
Controlling your breathing not only reduces stress but can relieve tense muscles and lower your blood pressure. Sometimes called belly breathing, deep breathing exercises can be performed anytime and anywhere, making it ideal for public settings (e.g., the office, a party).
Find a quiet area where you can be alone; however, if that is not practical, you can perform deep breathing at your desk or while standing. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Now, place a hand on your belly, right under your ribcage, and continue breathing normally. Try to concentrate on your breath and ignore any random thoughts. Next, inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, making sure the hand on your belly is moving out with your draw in. Hold your breath for four seconds, then exhale through your nose. As you release your breath, visualize the stress leaving your body, wafting out into the air. Repeat this exercise as many times as required, until the anxiety has passed.
To watch a video of this technique, click on the link (link to YouTube channel)
2. Learn mindfulness
Mindfulness is a powerful way to maintain a healthy mind and body by reducing stress and promoting inner peace. And just ten minutes of a morning mindfulness can set the stage for a calm and stress-free day. Getting started with mindfulness is simple: (a) get yourself relaxed and comfortable, (b) sit in your favorite location, (d) follow the steps listed above for deep breathing, (e) notice if your mind wanders and gently bring your attention back to the activity, (f) and repeat every morning. If you only have five minutes every other day, that is okay, just start with whatever fits your schedule.
3. Improve sleep, nutrition, and exercise
Most people are aware that proper nutrition and exercise are essential components of a healthy lifestyle, but did you know research shows that inadequate sleep can increase your overall level of anxiety? So, make sure your diet consists of mostly unprocessed, fresh foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, and lean meats), try to get thirty minutes of exercise each day, and adjust your schedule to guarantee adequate sleep. Your body and mind will thank you for the effort.
4. Combat negative thoughts
Negative or unrealistic thoughts precede feelings of anxiety, as Dr. Albert Ellis, founder of REBT (rational emotive behavior therapy), would attest. A form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, REBT describes a pattern which goes like this: negative thoughts engender harmful emotions, which lead to adverse behavior. But you do not need a Ph.D. in Psychology to develop the skills to battle unhealthy thoughts.
Let's say you have a presentation to give in the conference room in forty-five minutes, and you are aware that your boss and coworkers will be in attendance. Your level of anxiety starts to rise. First, acknowledge the thoughts running through your mind without performing any evaluation. Then, select the most salient idea and constructively combat that notion.
Example thought: I'm going to make a fool out of myself in front of everyone.
Example cognitive rebuttal: I have given many presentations and have performed admirably. Also, I am entirely prepared for this talk and have valuable information to disseminate. What is more, I am a competent professional and welcome the opportunity to contribute.
Proceed in this manner, dismantling additional negative thoughts until your level of anxiety has successfully ebbed. This method will work in any situation--adjust your responses accordingly.
5. Welcome the unknown
Many people become anxious when faced with the unknown. Lack of control and inability to predict the future causes individuals to feel helpless or depressed, thereby exacerbating the situation. Nevertheless, uncertainty is part of life; therefore, learning to accept the reality of things beyond your control will help alleviate the apprehension that leads to anxiety. For that reason, you should make a daily affirmation--perhaps right after your morning meditation--regarding your willingness to embrace the unknown. It can be as simple or complex as you desire. You might use something to the effect of, "Today I welcome the unknown and embrace the challenges that lie ahead."
A proactive approach is the best method for dealing with caustic emotions. Therefore, if you practice the formally listed techniques for coping with anxiety, you will develop the tools required to regain a level of normalcy in your day-to-day life. Moreover, the result of mastering these skills will be a feeling of empowerment that permeates every area of your life.
If you need assistance developing an effective treatment for your anxiety or depression, our Scottsdale counselors at Pathways Counseling Services can teach you the skills and tools needed. We specialize in helping people reduce and get rid of their debilitating anxiety once and for all. We encourage you to schedule an appointment online, contact us or call our office at 480-235-1682. We offer a free 15 minute phone consultation.