Sonya Thomas lcsw

The Golden Rules for Dealing with Anxiety/Panic

Switching gears from a focus on couples to more of a focus on the individual, let’s look at ways of coping with anxiety and panic.  Many of us deal with anxiety.  How could we not given the fast paced, demanding lives we live.  Couple that with a cultural deficit around being fully present (operating on auto pilot), a lack of accepting the way things are in the moment (fighting or resisting reality), and intense pressure to perform at unrealistically high standards (perfectionism), it is no wonder we are a society full of anxious and at times panic stricken people.  Here are a few of the golden rules for dealing with anxiety and panic:

  1. Remember that although your feelings are uncomfortable and even frightening, they are neither dangerous nor harmful.
  2. Understand that what you are experiencing is an exaggeration or ampification of your normal reaction to stress.
  3. Do not fight your feelings or try to wish them away.  The more willing you are to face them, the less intense they will become.
  4. Don’t add to anxiety or panic by asking yourself “what if . . . “.
  5. Stay in the present.  Focus on what you are feeling in your body.  Observe it.  Keep your focus on your bodily sensations rather than worrying about how much worse it might get.
  6. Do mindful breathing.  Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to a count of 6, and exhale fully to a count of 6.  Keep your focus here and on your bodily sensations.
  7. As you observe how your body feels, you will likely notice that there are muscles that are tense or constricted.  Use your mind to soften and relax your muscles.
  8. Label your anxiety or fear from zero to ten.  Notice it as it goes up and down the scale.  This shows you how fluid your anxiety and panic are rather than fixed states.
  9. Focus on and perform some simple, manageable and/or pleasurable task such as folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, walking the dog, taking a bath, watching a funny tv show, getting a massage, hitting up a yoga class, etc.
  10. Avoid catastrophizing (imagining the worse case scenario).  Notice that when you stop thinking frightening, worse case scenario thoughts, the anxiety and panic begins to fade.

That last point is related to what is called a “cognitive distortion”, aka distorted thinking. We will take a deeper look at distorted thinking and how it impacts our mood next time.  Until then, peace.

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