Anxiety is a normal response to a worrying situation. Mostly everyone will experience anxiety at some point in their lives. Feeling anxious is not the same as having an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder is a mental illness. If your anxiety is impacting your day-to-day life and your ability to live a full life then you might find what you’re experiencing is an anxiety disorder. The mental health charity, Mind, has more succinct information on this matter.
Living with anxiety is not easy and, often, it can be difficult to cope with. There are a number of healthy coping mechanisms you can try to alleviate your anxiety. Common coping mechanisms include deep breathing exercises, mediation, yoga, and practicing mindfulness. It’s important to understand that not all of these coping mechanisms will work for you – and that’s okay. What works for you might not be the same as what works for someone else. It can take a fair bit of trial and error to find a coping mechanism that helps manage your anxiety. I want to share with you the coping mechanisms I use for my anxiety. Maybe there’s one you’ve never heard of before or one you’ve heard of but never tried.
THE FIVE SENSES METHOD
This is a method I highly recommend. My partner tried this method on me during a particularly bad panic attack several years ago. While, at first, I thought it was utterly ridiculous, it was actually extremely helpful. The purpose of this method is to allow your brain to concentrate on the present moment using all five senses and allow your body to return to normal following the ‘fight or flight’ response.
SPLITTING TIME INTO SMALLER INTERVALS
This was a method I adopted in high school to alleviate my anxiety in class. Each of my classes were an hour long. When you experience overwhelming anxiety, an hour can feel like a lifetime. To make this more manageable, I broke the hour into smaller chunks of time. Personally, I use ten minute intervals, but you can use however long works best for you. Splitting an hour into ten minute intervals gives me six ten minute blocks. All I have to do is get through ten minutes at a time. When you can get through one ten minute block, you can get through another. Then you only have five more ten minute blocks to get through. One hour doesn’t feel as long then.
My brain needs to be stimulated at all times when I’m anxious otherwise I dwell and overthink, which increases my anxiety. I need to distract myself. Reading a book is one of my favourite pastimes. When this world becomes too much to handle, fictional worlds are there to welcome me. When my anxiety is particularly bad, it can be extremely difficult to concentrate on the words on the page, but that’s when I know I need to. I tend to re-read a favourite, one that I don’t need to focus too much on learning, but rather just to simply escape into that world. If I don’t feel up to reading a book, I might scroll through a random article on Wikipedia instead. I’ve found myself learning about historical figures and events, as well as how a combustion engine works thanks to my mindless scrolling.
Much like reading does, puzzles help me to keep my brain stimulated. I have several puzzle games downloaded onto my phone. They’re not at all challenging or necessarily fun, but they do keep my brain engaged and focused on anything but my anxiety. Having these games downloaded on my phone means that if I’m ever out and about and experiencing anxiety, I can get my phone out and load one of these games up. It’s particularly useful when using public transport. These games are also great when I’m recovering from a panic attack.
TALKING ABOUT IT
Now I know not everyone is fortunate to have a healthy support network and so talking about your anxiety to someone else might not be an option. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be a close relative or friend you speak to, but perhaps you could talk to a colleague, a teacher, someone from a support hotline, or even just vent on social media or a blog. Usually I will talk to my partner. He is logical where I’m emotional, so we balance each other out. As anxiety is irrational, him being logical does come in handy, although I’m loath to admit it! Speaking to him allows me to see a situation in a different light that I might not have been able to without his help. While you might not want to discuss your anxiety with somebody, getting it off your chest does help.