Do you go through every day with the crushing weight of anxiety on your chest? Sometimes, it can feel like everything is a struggle, and you don't want to do anything except for hide in your room and cover your head up under the bed blankets.
It can feel like you are afraid of everything, and life has become overwhelming. There are so many fears and worries constantly racing through your mind, you feel out of control.
It feels like you are spinning around too fast and about to fall. You don't know how to make the worries stop.
You feel completely out of control of yourself and your life, like some invisible force is weighing you down, and you don't know how to lift it.
Does that sound like you? If so, then you may have anxiety or chronic stress.
However, if you get help and treatment for your anxiety, there are many useful coping skills that can help to ease chronic anxiety that you are feeling.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a mental health condition that makes you feel like you are constantly on edge, expecting the worst, and worrying about all the bad things that could possibly happen to you.
Anxiety is much like chronic stress, but the difference is that with anxiety, you will still feel anxious even if nothing stressful is happening in your life. You could be lying on a beach somewhere and still not feel any relief from your anxiety symptoms.
When you have anxiety, you doubt yourself, and wonder if you are coming unhinged at times, because your life is good and you still cannot stop worrying.
According to The Mayo Clinic,
Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
Feeling nervous, restless or tense
Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
Having an increased heart rate
Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
Feeling weak or tired
Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
Having trouble sleeping
Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Having difficulty controlling worry
Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
One of the problems with having anxiety is that, since it isn't always caused by a specific situation, you may feel anxious all the time.
When I am feeling anxious and I don't know why, everything just irritates me. As this happens, I start looking for the source of the physical anxiety symptoms, which can be very disturbing. It can cause me to mentally flail around wildly, looking for some reason why I feel upset.
This can cause me to catastrophize situations which I am not actually upset about, which will make me spiral even further mentally out of control.
Does this sound familiar to you?
Do your negative thoughts just keep spiraling out of control, wondering if some catastrophe is going to befall you? Do you find yourself working about work, your kids, your partner, and even world events thousands of miles away?
Coping skills for anxiety
If you are struggling with anxiety on a daily basis, it's important to find ways to cope, so your anxiety isn't constantly getting in the way of your work, relationships, parenting and goals.
As a mom with anxiety, it is important to realize just because you have fears of something happening to your kids, that doesn't always mean that these fears are based in something that is actually likely to happen.
I tend to worry about my kids a lot. With my oldest, I always worried she would get kidnapped, although this isn't likely to happen. With my youngest, I worry that she is going to hurt herself.
Over the years, I have learned that I need to look at my worries more objectively, and determine if they are based on true situations. Most of the time, they aren't.
It can be important to learn to decatastrophize, so that you aren't constantly worried that something bad is going to happen. This means, learning to deconstruct whether your fears are actually likely to happen.
According to Positive Psychology, here are some tips to decatastrophize your anxious thoughts:
1. Take a step back
2. Catastrophizing is negative
3. Recognize catastrophic thoughts
4. Challenge our catastrophic thoughts with evidence
5. Maintain perspective
6. Imagination and visualization
As you walk through these steps, you will recognize that you are going into a downward spiral of negative thinking.
Acknowledge that you are thinking about things in a negative light. Then, question if the thought is true. You can find evidence to back up the opposite of your negative thought, and realize that it is actually not true. Then, you can visualize a positive outcome to the situation.
By calling the negative, anxious thoughts into question, it allows us to separate ourselves from the thoughts. Once you realize that your fear is unlikely to happen, it helps you to calm down quite a bit. At least, this has been the case for me when dealing with my anxiety.
In addition to decatastrophizing, it is also helpful to build stress reduction techniques into your day as much as possible. Take time for self-care. Do things that help you feel peaceful.
Some examples include:
Spend time in nature
Spend time with a pet
Listen to soft music
Take a warm bath
Drink a cup of hot tea
Get proper sleep
Read a good book
Call a friend
Reduce your to-do list
Find a routine
Any of these things will help you create more peace within yourself, which lowers your baseline level of anxiety. This can help you more calmly and rationally deal with anxious thoughts as they do arise.
Doing something good for yourself every day, such as any of the self-care ideas listed above, will help you feel better about yourself and your life.
When you are happier and less stressed, it helps you put mental space between yourself and your anxious thoughts. All of these self-care practices help you create that mental space. Self-care helps you to be more calm and mindful, and to realize that you are not your thoughts. You are the watcher of your thoughts.
As you learn to watch your thoughts, instead of feeling like you have to act on them, you will gain a sense of detachment, and be better able to look at your anxious thoughts objectively.
Going to therapy
If your anxiety is bothering you on a consistent basis, it can be helpful to work with a therapist or a life coach to reduce your symptoms to a manageable level.
In therapy you can learn additional coping skills for your anxiety, and in some cases they will also prescribe medication to lower your anxiety as well.
Personally, I found therapy to be very helpful and grounding for me. I also take medications for my anxiety, so that I'm better able to find a sense of calm throughout the day.
When you are looking for a therapist, it is helpful to find a therapist who specializes in treating patients with anxiety, so they will best be able to help you to cope with the things bothering you.
The Mayo Clinic advises seeking help from a therapist or doctor if,
You feel like you're worrying too much and it's interfering with your work, relationships or other parts of your life
Your fear, worry or anxiety is upsetting to you and difficult to control
You feel depressed, have trouble with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health concerns along with anxiety
You think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health problem
You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors — if this is the case, seek emergency treatment immediately
It is important to seek help right away if you are having suicidal thoughts. Please know that you are not alone, and that there are caring people out there that want to help you! You can contact:
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
988 is now active across the United States. This new, shorter phone number will make it easier for people to remember and access mental health crisis services. (Please note, the previous 1-800-273-TALK (8255) number will continue to function indefinitely.)
If you are in another country, you can find your suicide hotline number at the link here.
If you aren't in a crisis, it is still a good idea to work with a therapist, as they provide a listening ear for your worries, and help you to learn helpful coping skills for a better life. Here are some additional tips for Finding a Therapist.
If you have anxiety, it can seem like the whole world is against you at times, and like you will always be consumed with fear and worry.
However, there are coping skills you can learn to stop letting anxiety consume your life. If you combine these coping skills with self-care and therapy, it will enable you to go about your life without the crushing weight of anxiety.
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