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Is Anxiety Consuming Your Life?

As a counselor I hear a lot of stories. I am blessed and honored and quite frankly sometimes in awe at how readily people let me into the most secret and difficult parts of their lives.

While there are no two people or stories that are the same, there is a common theme I am observing which is the number of people experiencing anxiety on some level.

While Anxiety can occur intermittently and situationally such as when confronted with taking a test, going on an interview or performing as an artist or athlete, (performance anxiety) others suffer with a more generalized or chronic anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD). (While there are other anxiety disorders such as panic disorders, we will keep things more practical here and less technical!)

While it may be intellectually helpful to know that there are several types of anxiety and that many others are struggling with anxious thoughts and feelings, when anxiety rears its ugly head all you know in the moment is the feeling of being swallowed up or not in control.

Having anxious thoughts and therefore feelings, generally is indicative that there may be a part of your brain that is simply working too hard. You may have suffered from anxiety for a long time and so you may have formed the habit of “chewing” on anxiety provoking thoughts.

Often those negative or “what if” thoughts take on a life of their own. If we are not aware in the moment that we are engaging in ruminating thoughts they will certainly take us down the road of feeling anxious.

While there is not a “one size fits all” prescription to follow, there are many things that can help to quell anxiety in the moment. Here’s some suggestions of ways you can intervene and manage your anxiety more effectively.

  1. Don’t feast on a diet of watching the news. There is certainly a number of things going on in the world to be concerned about, however doom scrolling or engaging in hours of ingesting bad news is a recipe for increased anxiety.

  2. Control what is yours to control. Remind yourself to pause and consider what things are happening for you personally, relationally, financially etc. that you can control and which things you cannot control. Apply that same concept to what is happening in the world. Focus your energy on controlling what you can.

  3. Engage in Deep Breathing. I have clients who do this four times a day or as needed. Inhaling through your nose and allowing a nice slow exhale out your mouth can feel very calming and grounding. At the first sign of anxious thoughts or feelings, stop and breathe deeply for several cycles.

  4. Journal your thoughts for 24 hours. By journaling your thoughts for even a day or two you may notice a pattern of thinking that is either critical, negative, hopeless, or fearful. By identifying your thought patterns, you can learn tools to intervene so you can manage yourself more effectively when you have these thoughts.

  5. Practice questioning your thoughts once you have awareness of them. Once you can identify repeated anxious thoughts, then you can ask yourself “Is that true? Can I know with 100% certainty that bad thing I’m thinking is going to happen?” Then shift your story by acknowledging your feelings while focusing on the action(s) you can and will take rather than passively waiting for some bad thing to occur.

  6. Be willing to seek professional help. Many people who previously suffered from any type of anxiety have found that it has only worsened during the pandemic. We have collectively all experienced a traumatic event. Learning new tools to manage yourself and your anxious feelings can mean a world of difference to your health and wellbeing today and moving forward.

Everyone you meet has a struggle. You may not see the words “depressed” or “anxious” written on someone’s forehead. We know that too many are suffering silently.

Start with these suggestions and reach out if you need more help. At Live Well Kitsap, we want you to be equipped to LIVE WELL!!

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