Everybody’s Anxious: How Not to Let Anxiety Rule Your Life

 

Everybodys Anxious

Got anxiety?

(This post is for informational purposes and should not be considered a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. For more on this, please see the end of this post.)

 

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety and fear are normal emotions. They alert you to danger – both physical and emotional. The trouble comes when the danger detecting systems of your brain go into overdrive and  alert you to danger when there isn’t any. This can happen because of past trauma, a phobia, or a family history of anxiety.

Whatever the cause, when anxiety goes into overdrive, suddenly, the novel, interesting, fun things that used to bring interest and passion to your life seem threatening.  Life is meant to be full of newness and change. When you get filled with fear and try to halt that evolution, you get stuck, stagnant, and unhappy.

 

Blue Landscape

Stories of Anxiety

Anxiety can take on lots of forms, but here are a couple of typical scenarios I see frequently in my office:

Anxiety in Teens

I see a lot of teens who get really anxious about homework. Does this sound familiar?

It’s 10:30 and Becca still has 2 assignments left, including math, which is her worst subject. You try to help and offer some suggestions for breaking things down, taking a break, and letting go of perfection,  but this only escalates her anxiety more.

Unfortunately, you’ve found that the only thing you can do sometimes is sit and rub her back. It’s late. You both feel helpless and powerless. She’s exhausted, you’re exhausted. There has to be another way.

Foxboro Art Therapy Mandalas

Doodling is a great way to relieve stress

 

Adult Anxiety

I see a lot of adults who have tried very hard to get a handle on their anxiety but can’t.

They have tried exercise, talking to friends, distraction techniques, having a few glasses of wine, or just ignoring it. Unfortunately, things escalate and then they can’t sleep, they feel jumpy and irritable, they avoid their friends, try to hide their problem, and have panic attacks.

Can you see how good anxiety is at  making you think you are going crazy? Your rational mind knows what you should do, but you just can’t.

Almost everyone who steps into my office for help with anxiety feels that they are the only one. Let me tell you a secret – you are not alone in your anxiety!

I’m anxious. You’re anxious. We are all anxious. We are an anxious lot in our society.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, while just 1% of the population suffers schizophrenia, 18% of the population suffers from anxiety. That’s nearly 2 out of every 10 people. Women seem to be more prone to anxiety as well. We are twice as likely as men to suffer from panic disorder, for example.  (For more statistics and information on anxiety, click here.)

I want you to know that you are far from alone in your anxiety, and you can develop a harmonious relationship with it. Fear and anxiety can be helpful.

 

Finding balance

Finding balance

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety?

There are so many different ways that anxiety can make itself known in your body, but here is a short list of common examples*:

 

Constantly thinking about your worries

Difficulty concentrating

Racing thoughts

Tight shoulders

Sweaty palms

Shallow, quick breathing

Racing heart

Hands shaking

Butterflies in the stomach

This list could extend on too, because each body experiences anxiety differently. What in your body tells you that you are feeling fear and anxiety?

 

Anxious String

 

Coping Skills for Anxiety

As I reflect on my work with clients and my own experience of anxiety, you know what really strikes me? We all try to ignore it, run away from it, or push it down. And you know what? The more we do that, the more power we give it.

The good news is, anxiety is very treatable, and there are excellent resources to help. The skills take practice, but most people can get a handle on their anxiety.

Here’s an important tip on managing anxiety: Expect a coping tool to help 10%.

Just 10%? Yup. That’s it. Most of us need a varied set of tools in our “Coping Toolbox” to feel calm and in control most of the time.

 

Here are 10 of my favorite coping tools for anxiety:

 

1. Acknowledge Your Anxiety, Don’t Push It Away

One of the most powerful tools I know for dealing with anxiety is to acknowledge it. Stop trying to run from it, pretend it isn’t there, block it, or mask it.

Greet anxiety: Pretend your anxiety is a person, a friend of yours. You hear a knock on the door.   You open it and invite her inside. Like you would with any guest, find out what she needs – a drink? A seat? Someone to listen to her? What has she come to say?

Take the time to really listen to anxiety and see what she needs. She is trying to communicate to you with the tightness in your back, sweaty palms, and difficulty breathing. Try to listen like you would to a friend.

If it feels hard to imagine this all in your head, write it down like a story. Could you follow through on meeting her needs? Get yourself a drink, have a seat, or journal about what is worrying you. Let anxiety know someone is listening.

For more about embracing your anxiety click here.

 

2. Get Grounded 3,2,1:

Get into a comfortable seated position with your feet on the floor or lying down. Name 3 things you SEE, 3 things you HEAR, 3 things you FEEL. Then name 2 you SEE, 2 you HEAR, and 2 you FEEL. Now repeat a round of 1 of each. It gets harder to SEE, HEAR, and FEEL new things, with each round, so do your best.  Focusing on the here and now sensations is what will help ground you and dissipate the anxiety. There’s a great infographic of this skill here.

Grounding Page Coping Book

3. Write It Out:

Sit down with a piece of paper, the computer, or a journal and write about what is bothering you. This is especially effective when you are struggling to get focused on your work or relaxing for sleep.

 

4. Water It Down:

Many of us feel calmed by the water and temperature changes, so use water to your advantage. Drink something cold. Take a hot shower or bath. Run ice along your inner arm. Put a cool washcloth on your forehead and take some deep breaths.

 

5. Doodle It Out:

You don’t need to be Leonardo DaVinci to benefit from doodling. Take an index card and fill it with as many types of circles as you can. Turn on some relaxing music in another language or without words to help you get into a state of “flow” where you aren’t thinking too much. This will give your mind and heart  a much needed vacation. Check out this post on meditating through art for step by step instructions.

Doodle It Out

6. Call a Friend

Be wise here. Don’t call the friend who is always full of “You shoulds” and advice. She’s awesome for a lot of things, but she’s not the person you call when you just need to vent and be heard. Call the person who will quietly listen, validate your feelings, distract you, or make you laugh. Be thoughtful about what you need and how to get it. You deserve that. Yes, you do! Click here for more on how to really love yourself.

 

7. Get In Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose is a great grounding pose. It helps you shut out outside stimuli and tune into your breath. Of course, while this is a “simple” pose, you should always pay attention to your own body and what feels safe to you.

Childs Pose

 

8.Work Up a Sweat!

A good workout can be a great way to “exorcise” all those feelings. Find what works best for you and do it. Hiking, biking, cross country skiing, dancing, Zumba-ing, whatever it is, get out there and do it!

 

9. Get Connected to Nature

Standing next to a tree and closely examining the bark, finding images in the clouds, or feeling foamy waves wash over your feet are all ways of connecting to our natural world.  It’s called “grounding” for a reason, right?  Click here for more on the benefits of getting outdoors.

 

10. Make Self-Care Coping Cards!

Coping Cards Book Sewn

I wanted to offer you a fun, personalized way to remember these coping skills. I’ve created a great printable with which you can create a little book of your coping skills, both new and existing.

Just download and print the two PDF sheets, cut the squares, and paste them onto index cards. If you want to bind them together to create book, you can use a hole punch and an “O” ring from Staples, or  sew the cards to bind them like a book. I covered my index cards with high quality, bold colored papers.

Coping Skills Book Panel

 

 

Click and Print Your Free Printable Self-Care Cards

Self-Care Cards

Personalize Your Self Care Cards

Use this set to write out your existing coping tools that you know work for you already.
Create Your Own Self Care Cards

 

 

 

 How do you know you need help with your anxiety?

Defining when it’s time to get help with your anxiety is a very individual matter. You might start by asking yourself some questions:

How much is anxiety interfering with your life? Is it getting in the way of work? Social life? Relationships? Self-care? Do you avoid activities or people you used to enjoy because of anxiety? Do you feel out of control?

If you are questioning whether you need help, it may be time to consult a professional. Talk to a health provider that you trust. Coping skills training, psychotherapy, acupuncture, and medication are all treatment options. (And there are many more!)

Click here to learn more about Art Therapy in Foxboro, MA and how you and I might team up to help you master your anxiety.

For a list of art therapists throughout the United States, click here, or  here to search Psychology Today’s listing of therapists nationwide.

 

More Coping Tools  and Resources for Anxiety:

Anxiety Symptoms, Types, and Treatment Options

Anxiety in Teens: Solome Tibedu’s TED Talk on Surviving Anxiety and OCD

Maricle Counseling’s Pinterest Anxiety Board

Maricle Counseling’s Pinterest Panic Board

Chill Out for a Few Minutes at Your Desk in a “Meditation Room”

 

I think Ingrid Michaelson sums it up well. I like how she takes a sad song and sets it to really happy music so that you can’t help but feel good. Pretty clever, huh?

 

 

 

 

*This post is meant for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment.  If you are concerned about your physical health, please see your doctor to rule out any medical conditions.

If  you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, please seek emergency treatment immediately.

10 Comments

  1. Nicole Schwarz

    Thanks for a great post!! I can’t believe you can only expect a coping skill to work 10% of the time! What a great reminder to have a very full coping toolbox.

    Love the self-care cards too!

    Reply
    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      HI Nicole:

      I love when you drop in to comment! It’s so great to have your voice in here. And today especially, because I’m so thankful you pointed out that something in my writing was unclear! When I say that a coping skill may only work 10%, I don’t necessarily mean 10% of the time, though that may be true – some skills only work for certain situations. What I meant was that any given skill may only relieve 10% of your anxiety in that moment. I’ll have to find a way to clarify this in the body of the post. But still, it does point out how many we actually need to use, right? But if you think about it, aren’t you always using a combination of strategies?

      For example, dropping something off your to-do list, deep breathing, and self-talk that it’s okay not to be everything to everyone – something’s gotta give. Then, maybe later that day you find 20 minutes at lunch to do some yoga or journal. That’s four skills in one day. Then add in the fact that you resisted the urge to volunteer for something at work, and that was another self-care skill aimed at minimizing your anxiety.

      That’s why I like to think about self-care as an attitude, not just something you do once in a while. When I approach myself and my well-being as a priority, it changes the decisions I make and the support I find.

      Do you see it that way, or do you look at it a bit differently? I’m curious if you’d like to share.

      Thanks again for pointing that out! And I’m so glad you liked the cards – it took a lot of effort!

      Creatively yours,

      Amy

      Reply
  2. karin

    Amy,
    This post is so chock full of tools, especially building your own cards from your base.
    I need to express how thankful i am for ‘Maricle central control’.
    One-stop shopping for a better day, every day, just a little bit at a time.

    Reply
    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      HI Karin!

      Always such a pleasure to have your voice here. 🙂 “Maricle Central Control” reporting for duty. I’m “wicked happy” to use a New England phrase, that you liked my chock full post – I try really hard to bring you guys as many awesome, creative resources as I can. Thank you for brightening MY day by saying so! Cheers!
      Creatively Yours,
      Amy

      Reply
    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      HI Lanie:

      Welcome to Foxboro Art Therapy! I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. The truth is that anxiety is such a core issue for the majority of my clients that I really wanted to do a comprehensive post that helped inform, normalize, and give hope for creatively dealing with it. Your words are very meaningful given all the work and heart I put into this one particularly. Looking at your site, I am wishing we lived closer! Your retreat looks amazing. I would love to work on transitions out in a beautiful location while communing with horses and making art! I look forward to continued chatting and networking online here and who knows, perhaps one day our paths will cross at a conference or something!
      Cheers,

      Amy

      Reply
  3. Linda Simpson

    Wonderful resources ! Many thanks. I’m sharing this with colleagues.

    Reply
    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      HI Linda:

      Welcome to foxboroarttherapy.com! I’m so glad that you are enjoying the anxiety resources. I hope your clients do too! For many of my clients, just knowing that they are are not alone can be such a relief.

      Thanks for chiming in on the conversation.

      Cheers,

      Amy

      Reply
  4. dinta

    nice blog on anxiety here are few tips for your audience Social interaction is a must for people, in order to survive. You will die slowly without any social interaction. It is also a big help when it comes to dealing with anxiety. Try talking to someone, and maybe, that person can help talk you through your anxiety by helping you sort things out.

    Make sure you moderate the amount of nicotine and alcohol that you use. Although other people might believe that alcohol and nicotine could act as relaxers, they will not. They can cause increased anxiety than before using them. Try healthier alternatives like healthy social activities, a healthy diet and relaxation techniques.

    Reply
    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      HI Dinta!

      Welcome to foxboroarttherapy.com! Thanks for the great tips on anxiety, especially about alcohol and nicotine. I think a lot of people use alcohol to loosen them up, and unfortunately, for some people, this leads to dependency and other issues. Caffeine is another culprit that drives anxiety and I find folks have to watch their intake. I LOOOOVE coffee, but I too have to be aware like many of my clients.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
      Cheers,
      Amy

      Reply

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