How to Control Anxiety - 10 Tools for Managing Stress
Author: Stephanie Camins - MA, LPC
How many times have you heard the phrases chill out, find your happy place, let it go, it could be worse, or seen workshops for stress management or anger management. We are flooded with information on how we should manage our feelings of stress, anxiety, panic, fear, depression and anger. All of these messages can be overwhelming and confusing. This tool box for managing stress gives you 10 straight forward steps to resolve these difficult feelings, overcome anxiety and increase satisfaction in your life.
Use Your Mind to change your negative thinking
1. Stop focusing on negatives and start focusing on positives.
2. Thought Stopping – To disrupt the chain of negative thoughts in your mind use a distraction, say out loud “stop” or say “stop” and snap a rubber band on your wrist.
3. Use positive self- statements to replace the negatives:
-“I do the best I can.”
-“I am satisfied with who I am.”
-“I’m in control of my life.”
Use your body to reduce physical agitation
4. Deep Breathing
-“Belly Breathing”- lay on your back putting one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a deep breath in until the hand on your belly rises. You may need to practice moving the air past your chest all the way to your diaphragm. If only the hand over your chest rises you are not breathing deeply enough.
-“7-2-7 Breathing” – Inhale for 7 seconds, hold your breath for 2 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds.
5. Visualization – Close your eyes and imagine a place that you are safe, calm and content. Include all five senses in your visualization. What do you see, smell, hear, feel and taste.
6. Progressive Muscle Relaxation – As you are lying down, focus on each muscle group starting at your feet and moving progressively up to your face. Tense and relax each muscle group for 7 seconds. Hold the tension for 7 seconds then relax the muscle group for 7 seconds. Move up to the next muscle group and the next until you’ve completed each muscle group.
7. Focal Meditation – Choose an object such as a lit candle, a tree, or a stream. It helps if the object has some inherent movement. Set a timer and focus on the movement of the object for 5 minutes. Let any thoughts that enter your mind pass through as you focus only on the movement of the object.
8. Physical Activity – Walk, Stretch, Dance, etc.
9. Biofeedback – Using a heart rate monitor such a fit bit, vivo, etc., in times of stress when you notice your heart rate is elevated above what is normal for you; take deep breaths until the number reaches your normal
10. Schedule Downtime – Allow no less than 15 minutes in your schedule every day for relaxation. That can include reading, soaking in the tub, drawing, sitting in the sunshine. NO screen time.
We all agree that stress, anxiety, depression and anger are a part of life. However, if ongoing, these emotional states have a detrimental impact on our emotional and physical health. It takes a commitment of time and effort to learn and incorporate these coping skills into our daily lives to head off the consequences of lingering and long term negative emotions. Practicing these skills daily will improve your mood, your relationships and your overall health.