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Coping Strategies for Anxiety

I have heard of various coping strategies for anxiety (and panic attacks) over the years and I thought I would share some here with you today! I have also done some research on this topic so that I can include some other ideas too. You will find calming activities to help maintain relaxation or to help calm you down when you start to feel anxious as well as techniques that you can try if you are experiencing a panic/anxiety attack. 

I hope you find something here to help you! 

If you have any techniques or strategies that you would like to share with us, please do not hesitate to contact us via our Submit Page or our Twitter Page. 

Self-experimenting is key when it comes to finding techniques that work best for you. You may find that some techniques work great in some situations but not so well in others, therefore it may be useful to have multiple techniques which cover the following areas:

- Behavioural 
- Cognitive (thinking)
- Physical 

One of the main techniques for anxiety is breathing. This could mean that you take part in regular breathing exercises, or it could be that you only do this when you are feeling particularly anxious. The main approach for this would be to take slow, deep breaths and continue doing so for approximately 3-4 minutes. This is useful for calming yourself down if you are starting to feel panicked, or even just as a simple relaxation technique. There are also various apps that accommodate breathing exercises here are a couple that I have found personally effective:

  • Breathe 
  • Calm 
  • HeadSpace 

I found that doing regular breathing exercises to be really helpful when trying to relax my mind and ease stress. It can also be very helpful if you feel yourself becoming panicked. If any of you have an apple watch, you may be familiar with the 'breathe' app... it allows you to set a length of time that you wish to breathe for and it has a little animation for you to breathe in time with, it also vibrates on your wrist which can feel comforting. On top of this, it also pops up with reminders throughout the day to get you to engage with the app and stop for a moment to just breathe! The health app on the apple watches, which mainly monitors your heart rate, can also be very effective. I have set mine up to alert me if my heart rate goes above 120 while I am 'resting', this can be a good indicator for when you are starting to feel anxious or panicked and therefore you can take action much quicker!

Many people have recommended the app 'HeadSpace' to me over the last couple of months. I have not yet used it for myself, but it is designed to teach you how to meditate and includes other mindfulness techniques which are great for relieving stress and can be applied to many different aspects of your life. It sounds like a very good app and I will definitely be trying it out in the near future! 

Calm is another very popular app, which I did have for quite some time! Similar to HeadSpace, it includes meditation techniques to help with stress and also with sleep! It gives you uniques mindfulness techniques to try each and every day and can help you to break bad habits, learn to deal with stress and help you to get a good night sleep! 

Some other good techniques to try when you are feeling anxious are:

  • Massaging your hands! - This releases oxytocin which can make you feel calm and happy. 
  • Putting something that is out of place, in its place! Sometimes physical order can help with mental order, so moving things around and putting things back in their rightful places can be a great way to clear your mind. It also helps to have a clear working area!
  • Mindful meditation! - As mentioned above, mindful meditation can be helpful in various areas including stress and sleep deprivation! It can help you to feel calm and relaxed, allowing you to just breathe and take some time for yourself. As well as accessing this through mobile apps, you can also find videos on youtube!
  • Yoga - This may not be for everyone, but yoga is a great way of relieving stress and tension from your body and mind. You may attend a yoga class alone or with friends, or you may feel more comfortable to practice within your own home! Maybe try and do some yoga poses in the morning before going to work/school/university etc and relax into the busy day ahead! 
  • Go outside - Now I know that this may sound daunting to some people, maybe not all of the time, but some days are harder than others! On the days that you feel able, go for a nice walk or even a good jog, this is a great way to clear your mind! Fresh air is a great thing, it can refresh your mind, not only that but being outdoors and taking in your surroundings is also great! When you step outside for a relaxing walk or jog, you tend to see things differently, you take in more of the world around you and it can feel pretty amazing, so why not give it a try? It might just be the perfect technique for you... but if not, do not worry, you will find something that works for you in no time!
  • Lightly run 2 fingers across your lips - now, I know this may sound strange but trust me it really works! (For me anyway). This will stimulate parasympathetic fibres to your lips, making you feel calm. 
  • Look at situations that provoke anxiety from a future perspective. 6, 8, 12 months from now, does the problem seem smaller? It can also help to think about past situations where you have felt anxious and analyse them... looking back, were they really as bad as they seemed at the time?

Mind Charity offers some great self-care tips for people who suffer from anxiety:

- Talk to someone you trust! This could be a friend, a family member, a teacher, a co-worker, a manager... anyone that you feel comfortable with! Getting it out in the open and out of your head can really help you to feel better, almost like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders as you no longer have to keep it to yourself. 

- Try your best to manage your worries. Now, this may sound impossible, but there are some things that you can do to help. Setting time aside to focus on your worries reassures you that you have not forgotten about them, some people find this helpful as they can get on with their day knowing that they can 'worry' about that later... again this may not be everyone's cup of tea, and that is perfectly okay! Another way to manage your worries, is to write them down, you may choose to write them in a notebook, or on bits of paper in a jar or an envelope, you may keep them to look back on in the future, or you may rip them up and watch them disappear! 

- Try to look after your physical health. Getting a good sleep and eating healthily can really help to keep your mind clear and can give you the energy that you need in order to deal with your worries. As well as good sleep and a good diet, doing some light exercises can also be a great help too! This helps you feel refreshed and strong and is also a great way to clear your mind as it gives you something to focus on. 

- Peer support! This is not just about talking to someone about how you feel, but talking with people who are going through something similar to yourself. This helps you to feel less alone and it can be very therapeutic to talk about your worries with someone who feels the same way. They can offer different techniques that they have found helpful as well as shedding some light on their outcomes in certain situations and how not everything turns out as bad as you may think. You can contact a specialist organisation to get involved in group support sessions or you may find online support groups and forums useful too! Mind Charity have a brilliant online support community known as Elefriends, which is definitely worth checking out! The links you need will be at the end of this article! 

- Alternative therapies such as aromatherapy, massages, herbal treatments, hypnotherapy are also great for helping stress and anxiety. 

one of our readers (@FP_Therapy) sent us a tweet including an animation that is designed to help you breathe when you are feeling anxious... you can find that here!!

Resources:

Psychology Today - 50 strategies to help beat anxiety!

Mind Charity - Self Care for Anxiety