How do we learn to manage our anxiety

The last number of blogs have concerned anxiety, how it manifests and some of it’s effects on us. This blog will look at ways we learn to manage our anxiety.

Self awareness
As I have alluded to in blogs before, getting to learn our patterns, seeing what our triggers are is the first step towards well being. This awareness contributes to recognising what might cause us anxiety and can often travel a great distance towards managing our anxiety and lessening it’s impact upon us.

Accepting that anxiety is a feature of our lives.
Anxiety is a part of our lives, as it should be. We are programmed from our very beginnings to react should we perceive danger. It is logical that we should respond in a way to ensure our safety. However, when we our reactions are having a negative impact on our lives, then our ’flight, fight, freeze’ response is not supporting us as it should and we need a better way to cope.

Understanding that between the initiating situation or thought and the behaviour, there are thoughts and feelings
It may often seem as though our action response is immediate, but there is always something that mediates the actions and we may not be aware of it. The goal is to capture these thoughts and feelings and by stepping back from them, begin to understand how they have precipitated an action that is unwelcome and possibly unsupportive.

Reality testing
This is to do with thoughts and feelings mentioned above and challenging the veracity of what we may believe or feel. The challenge can be done in a gentle compassionate way, with a curiosity and inquisitiveness.
There are many different sorts of thoughts that are unhelpful-distorted, catastrophic, mind reading, black and white, jumping to conclusions, mental filter, shoulding and musting, overgeneralisation, personalisation, emotional reasoning, magnification and minimisation-all these have a goal and lead us to place that may actually only be an interpretation of an event/situation.
With reality testing, it is important to meet the thought that can overtake and to see if what we are thinking is the truth? Could there be another lens from which to view the situation we are in? Is what we think necessarily true? What is someone else was to experience the same situation, would they think the same things as me?

Challenging our behaviour
This one can be a very challenging prospect and may require the support of the therapist in order to integrate the experience. It involves Introducing deliberate practices to counter the unhelpful behaviours we may have in anxiety, reflecting on them and their impact. The reflection measures the effectiveness of the change in behaviour and hence anxiety, it is a conscious practice aimed at altering our responses.

Mindfulness
This is a tool that covers all areas of our lives-at it’s simplest definition it is ’about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We feel more alive. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation and healing’ Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness when practised regularly and with an openness raises our awareness, it helps us be in the moment and allows us to know exactly how we feel about something. It may also offer us the space to make a choice, to have a different reaction to the same situation.

Physical exercise, sleep & diet
All of the above again are essential components to any balanced and healthy wellbeing. We must look after ourselves and invest in our physical make-up as it is part of the whole of who we are.

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