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From The Therapy Couch: Some Tips From People Who Struggle With Anxiety

Each week we meet with people sitting on their own couch (prior to COVID, we welcomed them into our office to sit on our couches) and invite them to share their stories of challenge, fear, grief, and hope. Many come to us for help with anxiety and we are always curious about what does actually help them and thought others might also be curious. So, we’ve decided to share what we have learned from those who struggle with anxiety.

Anxiety can create anxiety about asking for help and we know how hard it can be to do that. Sometimes it can feel like too much, especially when our anxious brain is telling us it’s “not possible”, “too hard”, “danger”, “I’ve tried that”, or “yeah, right”. 

Actually though, helping anxiety is a walk in the park. Yes, you read that right. Now, you may be thinking that aiding anxiety is far from a walk in the park. It doesn’t feel easy. It doesn’t feel relaxed. It doesn’t feel like it is focused on the present moment. However, anxiety can be helped immensely when this expression is taken literally.

Anxiety is caused by worrying about an uncertain future and can be compounded when others feel anxious too. It is a feeling that catches on fast in a group and is hard to quell once ignited. It’s okay to feel anxious, especially right now. The trick is not to let it become debilitating so that you are able to still live your life. There are coping techniques available to you when you feel anxious. Here are some suggestions people who struggle anxiety think you might find helpful:

Take a walk.

A walk brings you into the present moment. So much of anxiety is caused by future tripping or tripping over what you think may happen in the future based on what has led to your programming from the past. Walking outside allows you to find your feet. It helps you take one step at a time. It welcomes the possibility of feeling warmth or chill on your skin. 

Joining the world by going outside for a walk helps to alleviate tension. Often, the discomfort of anxiety was created in your brain through the expectation of what it could look like to walk outside rather than what it does look like to walk outside. Getting too far in your brain by creating scenarios rather than trying out options will perpetuate fear. A walk outside is the reality rather than the expectation. Allow yourself to experience beauty of the world instead of living out fear in your mind. The relief from anxiety comes from doing the next right thing for you, not doing everything right.

Find support.

Even though chatting with others about your fears and anxiety can feel good at the time, it can lead to stories on repeat and no action being taken. Engaging in a productive conversation about your fears and anxiety can be more helpful. Often, productive conversations begin with a professional like a therapist. A therapist can help to reality test with you so that you are not alone.

Anxiety counseling and therapy is more than a conversation and meets individual needs for people who participate. A therapeutic relationship can teach you how to trust at least one person so that everyone else doesn’t seem as scary. Anxiety is about the buildup of how we perceive the world, but when we talk to a professional, they can help us to make a new reality for ourselves. Many skills can be learned in therapy and allowing anxiety to have a safe space rather than stuffing the feeling is a service to yourself.

Listen to a motivational podcast.

When anxiety is felt in the body fully; your chest may constrict, your eyes may have tunnel vision, and you may find concentration difficult. To ease anxiety; the trick is to get outside of your head, which can be difficult without the ability to focus or concentrate. Listening to a motivational podcast is a way to input something other than fear and doesn’t require the same skills as reading. It is also calming to hear another voice other than your own to break up the monotony in your brain. 

Creativity can be expressed through podcasts, and it helps to know people are using skills in the world that make their space a better place. In turn, it can be inspiring for the listener to know that they can find a creative outlet too. If you aren’t there yet, that’s okay. A podcast is still a way to take a brain break without requiring total focus and concentration, which can be sparse when anxiety is high.

Recognize what you can control.

Anxiety will happen because there are things that are not within our control, no matter how hard we try. We can’t make things go our way all of the time, but we can choose ways to help ourselves. Recognizing what you do have control of – your choices, how you respond, what you do next and accepting what you don’t have control over, can provide perspective, clarity, and direction when we feel overwhelmed, uncertain, and anxious. During this time, when we are struggling collectively with uncertainty, identifying some things you do have control over, or things you can do for yourself can help guard from anxiety.

Anxiety will happen. There are techniques available to you so that anxiety doesn’t have to stay stuck in your brain or body. There are supports for you when you are ready to reach out. Remember that helping anxiety is a walk in the park.