How to Prepare for Anxiety
Are you at the point where you're having anxiety about your anxiety? It's the worst! The hard truth is it won't get better if you're trying to cope while flying by the seat of your pants. You have to prepare. Here are some quick suggestions:
Practice: Your brain can't access brand-spanking new skills when you’re having anxiety or in the middle of an anxiety attack. You start to use a part of your brain that’s dedicated to focusing on basic survival. That means your body turns up the volume on certain bodily functions, like heart rate and stress hormones, and turns down the volume in the area of your brain that’s dedicated to regulating emotional responses. Reaching for a tool you’ve never practiced while your brain is shouting “I DON’T THINK WE’RE SAFE!” is unlikely to work. Set yourself up for success by practicing one or two basic skills ahead of time. In fact, pick one. Put a sticky note on your mirror or by your bed as a reminder and spend one minute practicing each night. The more you practice, the easier it will be for your brain to reach for that skill when in distress.
Consider your triggers: Too much noise and chaos tend to trigger anxiety for me. When I’m overwhelmed my coping skills tend to go in the toilet. But since I know this about myself I can think ahead to situations where this tends to happen and plan accordingly. That may mean sound dampening earplugs (I love you, Loops), planning an exit strategy ahead of time, setting a timer for what I suspect my limit might be. Figure out your triggers and brainstorm some solutions or talk it out with your therapist.
Patience: Our self-talk has a big role in either increasing or decreasing our anxiety. The harder you are on yourself, the harder it is to decrease your stress. Try to notice it’s happening without judging yourself or shaming yourself for it. “My body is being overwhelmed with adrenaline right now. It doesn’t feel good but I know eventually it’ll slow down.” Notice how neutral that is compared to, “Why can’t I just stop this? Other people don’t have this problem. Get a grip!”. Shame breeds distress. Distress breeds anxiety. Try to take the shame out of your self-talk!
Stay tuned for another post with coping skills to try for your anxiety. It might feel like you've tried everything but aim to be open to new things that might seem silly or impossible, or trying old things in new ways. What ends up working may surprise you!