Posted by: counselorcarmella | August 16, 2011

What I’ve Learned About Coping With Anxiety

So, what do I teach clients and what do I put into practice myself? I learned a lot of deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, and I use those a lot and try to practice some of them every day. I will describe these in more detail in a separate post. I also have learned the importance of exercise to handle the physical feelings of being restless and keyed up that come with having an anxiety disorder. I use a treadmill or go for walks, but others enjoy swimming, sports, going to the gym, or even yoga.  Yoga is also great for relaxation.


I’ve learned a lot of sleep hygiene things to try to deal with my problems with insomnia. This includes going to bed and getting up at the same time every day,  not doing highly stimulating things before bed, having a bedtime routine,  keeping the bedroom cool and dark, and  other  techniques.  Googling “sleep hygine” will  provide you with lots of information on this topic, and there is some information in the  articles about insomnia I’ve posted also. I’ve cut down on caffeine since it’s a stimulant. It can increase anxiety and problems sleeping. I also do things to relax such as taking hot baths and listening to quiet music and watching stupid TV.  I also drink herbal tea. Some types are  supposed to help  you become more sleepy and relaxed.


I journal and  I sometimes do things like sort and count change, play with  smush balls, or tear up  cardboard Pop Tart boxes just to  give my hands and mind something to do.  I once rolled $43 worth of pennies  during a particularly anxious time. These things are relaxing, but they are also good distractions when I need to just   get through the anxious feelings. I love bubble wrap for the same reason.  Some of my  clients enjoy coloring books,  playing with clay, or  doing things like gardening.


One of the coping strategies I always used to deal with the anxiety was to talk to someone when I was feeling particularly worried or overwhelmed. I still do that, though I don’t have to do that nearly as often as I used to. It is always good to have a couple of people identified that you know you can turn to. I always tell clients that, no matter what they’re facing. Choose people who are good  listeners, but who can set boundaries to tell you if they can’t listen  right now.  Having a friend who has similar  problems can help sometimes, since that person will have a personal understanding of what you’re going through. Sometimes, when you’re anxious, calling someone just to chat about something else can be helpful.  I like to call and talk to my niece or nephews just hearing about what they’ve been up to  and hearing an “I love you” at the end of the conversation makes me feel better.


My dog is a great listener and petting her is very soothing. She very rarely worries, although she is very sensitive to how I’m feeling. I recommend interacting with a pet to anyone struggling with depression and anxiety. It is comforting but a pet is also a great distraction. Having a dog also makes me play a little more and be silly and makes me have to go outside and enjoy the  sun and the breeze and the birds singing and so on and when I’m out there, I interact with people more.  When I’m particularly anxious, I tend to withdraw from others so this is a good thing for me.  


I also pray and talk with God and pray for peace and strength. Those feelings of having lost God I experienced during  my second year of college eventually  lessened and I began to  experience the feeling of reconnecting with God again. As I mentioned earlier, I made it a point as a coping strategy I learned early on to read and memorize a lot of the Bible verses that deal with worrying and anxiety and those continue to be a great comfort to me.  Focusing on those when I’m upset is also helpful because it is part of taking control of my thoughts. That is a huge part of handling anxiety. I really have learned to tell myself that it’s okay not to worry and that I’m just experiencing symptoms that doesn’t mean things are as bad or overwhelming as they seem right then.   I Remind myself that I really will get through   the feelings and be fine and remind myself that  I don’t have to let anxiety control me.  Sometimes, I have to realize that being worried is normal and plan for situations when I am likely to worry more. This is all stuff I talk with clients about.       


Writing  worries down and then tearing the paper up can feel kind of good. Some people like to save their thoughts in a journal.  I suggest to some clients that they set aside a “worry time” during the day when they can think about the thing/things that  are bothering them for that period of time. They can fret, stew,  brood,  write things down, or whatever they want to do for that period of time.  When its not worry time, the brain can be reminded that the time for that will  be later and that it is just a matter of waiting until  the designated 15 or 20 minutes set aside for that purpose.


None of this is easy.  Managing anxiety can be exhausting. Sometimes, I  still wonder if it will get the best of me when I feel overwhelmed and depleted and  very small and inadequate.  I’ve been working with a wonderful therapist for several years now and am thankful for the  medications and behaviors that help me deal with myself. I’m also fortunate to be a very stubborn person. I  have to have a quality life  with meaningful work and relationships and  positive goals and interests that seem worth investing time and energy in. I have been successful despite blindness, anxiety,  and  the various challenges that could have  sidelined me at any point in my life.  I am a successful professional and published book author.  I give presentations and  figure out how to manage  my life in  the ways that make the most sense to me.  I try and cut myself slack on days when everything feels harder or I feel skiddish.  I  have learned to give myself credit  for what I do because I know, more than anyone, how hard it is for me to do  what I do each day. I wouldn’t choose anxiety  but it is  part of what I have to deal with, so I do. 


Life can still be good and  there are times of joy and peace and real contentment.  I don’t take those times for granted. I don’t take my blessings for granted either. I’m thankful for so many things and so many people.  My life has a lot of positive in it despite the hard stuff, and it is my choice to focus on the good, to  have hope, and to  keep seeking to make the best of  things.  That’s a choice we all can make. I  hope it is a choice you  are making and will continue to make.




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