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  • Alyssa Woolslair, LMHC

How To Stop Your Anxiety From Consuming You



Anxiety comes in many forms and is described in many ways. Regardless of how your anxiety shows up, those who struggle with anxiety can all agree that it is an uncomfortable feeling and can significantly impact your day-to-day life. Anxiety is most commonly described as excessive worry that one cannot control. This excessive worry can be triggered by past traumas, current stressors, or concerns about the future. Completely eliminating anxiety is unrealistic for most but managing it so that it doesn’t become consuming is a goal for many.


Learning how to manage your anxiety can help improve your day-to-day functioning and help you feel like you have more control over your life and your emotions.


Before getting into helpful ways to manage your anxiety, let’s first look at the different ways that anxiety can show up. As mentioned above, anxiety can show up in many forms and the lists below are just a few common examples.


Some examples of physical anxiety:

  1. Shortness of breath

  2. Chest pains

  3. Trouble sleeping

  4. Shaking/sweating

  5. Upset stomach


Some examples of emotional anxiety:

  1. Panic attacks

  2. Fatigue

  3. Paranoia

  4. Irritability

  5. Isolation


If you are someone who is aware of their anxiety, these symptoms are not news to you. However, if you are unsure of what you’re experiencing, referring to the symptoms above may help you to make sense of your patterns. It is always recommended to reach out to a mental health therapist and/or medical professional if you are having questions about the symptoms you are experiencing.


Often anxiety can worsen and become crippling if not acknowledged and managed in healthy ways. Below are some helpful tools to implement to decrease the likelihood of your anxiety consuming you.


Breathing Exercises:


Breathing is an extremely powerful tool when it comes to managing anxiety. Not only does it help with the physical symptoms but focusing on your breath can be a powerful way to distract your mind from the excessive worry that it is creating.

  • Equal Breathing – this exercise allows you to focus on your inhale and exhale for the same amount of time. This exercise can be done either sitting or lying down, whatever is more comfortable for you. It is also recommended that you close your eyes to eliminate distractions while breathing. The goal is to inhale slowly for 4-6 seconds, hold briefly, then exhale slowly for 4-6 seconds. Repeat this cycle until you feel your heart rate decreasing.

  • Exhale Focus Breathing – this exercise is aimed to focus more on your exhaling. This exercise can be done sitting, standing, or lying down. Focusing on the exhale is a helpful way to decrease anxiety, but it is also encouraged throughout the day to stay grounded and assist with calmness. The goal is to exhale for longer than you inhale, with a recommendation of inhaling for 4 seconds, holding briefly, and then slowly exhaling for 6 seconds.

  • Guided Meditation Breathing – this exercise produces calmness and grounding. Guided meditation walks you through different breath exercises and allows you to focus solely on following the guide, therefore eliminating the focus your mind has on your anxiety. There are many YouTube videos and phone apps that provide this tool, just search “guided meditation breathing” into the search box.

Journaling


People often underestimate the power of writing when it comes to your mental health. Keeping a journal that you record in daily can help you become more aware of your feelings, process these feelings, and lessen anxiety associated with these feelings. Journaling practices are a healthy way to recognize triggers for your anxiety and therefore become more aware of how to manage these triggers in the future.

Ideas for journal entries can include:

  • Feelings experienced throughout the day and what triggered these feelings

  • Goals for the following day

  • Positive affirmations

It is also important to know that there doesn’t need to be a specific outline or template when it comes to journaling. Sometimes just writing whatever comes to mind can be a healthy release and a healthy outlet for processing your emotions.

Physical Activity


Physical exercise can positively impact many areas of life, mental health being one of these. Not only is it healthy for your body, but it is also healthy for your mind. Physical activity releases endorphins which can help ease your mind and your sense of calmness.


Exercise is also a good way to push yourself, therefore causing the mind to focus on that instead of the anxiety you are feeling. Exerting yourself physically is a great way to release negative emotions and feel a sense of accomplishment afterwards. Engaging in a physical activity is a helpful coping skill to manage anxiety when you feel it increasing but it is also encouraged to incorporate into your regular routine to decrease the frequency of the anxiety showing up. Physical exercise doesn’t have to mean engaging in anything too intense.


Some easy, yet helpful options include:

  • Taking a 20 minute walk

  • Signing up for a yoga or exercise class

  • Taking a bike ride in an environment that is calming (beach, park, etc.)


Reframe Your Thinking


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is used in therapy to help individuals learn the relationship between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. A big part of CBT is reframing your negative thought patterns. Often, negative thoughts or stress about the future can cause an increase in anxiety.


Being able to reframe your thinking and change your perspective on the anxiety producing situation can be a game changer. The mind is a powerful place, and if you put effort into taking a more positive outlook on situations, it can significantly reduce anxiety and assist with managing it in the future. The more you practice reframing, the easier it becomes to implement in the moment when you are experiencing an anxiety producing thought.


Below is a helpful chart to use to practice reframing your negative thoughts.

Negative Thought

Emotion Associated with negative thought

Evidence that does not support negative thought

Reframed/ positive thought

New emotion associated with reframed thought

Speak Directly to Your Anxiety


Often, when someone is experiencing anxiety, they try to convince themselves otherwise or blame it on something else. Without realizing it, this often gives the anxiety more fuel and causes it to increase.


Although it may seem like a foreign idea, speaking directly to your anxiety and acknowledging its presence gives it less power and helps to decrease the level of anxiety you are experiencing at that moment. Getting into a pattern of speaking directly to your anxiety is great for managing symptoms and feeling as though you have more control in the situation.


Some helpful go to lines to say to yourself include:

  • I am experiencing anxiety, I am aware of what I am feeling, it will not last.

  • This feeling of anxiety will pass, and I can make a conscious effort to not fuel it.

  • I have the ability to take control of my anxiety and not allow it to consume me.


These are just a few examples, but it’s best to practice and find out what works best for you. There is also no perfect script for this practice, and sometimes just saying whatever comes to mind, while being mindful of speaking directly to the anxiety itself, is helpful.


There is no exact handbook to managing anxiety, as everyone’s symptoms and responses are different, but putting in effort to figure out which strategies work for you is a good place to start. With work and practice, you can help to decrease how consuming your anxiety is and stop it from negatively impacting your day-to-day tasks. Having tools in your pocket to use when needed also helps to provide a sense of preparedness, which aids in the effort to give your anxiety less power.


If you need additional support or strategies to manage anxiety, depression, or other challenges, I invite you to contact me for your complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305. I provide counseling for adults at our beautiful new office in Plantation, Florida and across the state for those who reside in Florida.


For more information about myself and my services, click here.


I look forward to speaking with you!