Do you ever feel excessively worried? A feeling of uneasiness which makes you tired, on edge, unable to sleep and is wearing down your body physically and mentally? This may indicate you are experiencing anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety is a common problem across the world and specifically affects 1 in 5 South Africans each year. Anxiety can be considered on a spectrum from general anxious feelings to more significant diagnoses of various anxiety disorders. Regardless of where you may fall on the spectrum of anxious feelings, the worry and fear experienced is a shared experience we can all relate to. Currently, the worldwide pandemic has increased levels of anxiety significantly due to a combination of fear and worry for this threat and the future. A hugely complex situation like this pandemic creates a complex anxiety which is why it may be more difficult than usual to cope with these feelings.
So, I want to be able to help you cope with these anxieties so that our mental health is as well protected as our physical health. Let us look at some strategies and techniques to help us cope.
First and most importantly, RECOGNISE AND ACKNOWLEDGE
Take time to self-reflect and recognise what is making you anxious. Recognise any maladaptive behaviours that are making it more difficult for you to cope (for example: binge drinking, self-harm, risk taking, etc.). And most importantly acknowledge this anxiety, acknowledge the feelings you are currently experiencing, and acknowledge and accept that it is 100%, totally and completely okay to be struggling.
Take care of your BODY
In “normal” everyday life, and especially during the pandemic, it is important to take care of your physical health. Limit alcohol and caffeine, eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise frequently.
Take care of your MIND
Try to maintain a positive and optimistic attitude when you can, this is not always easy but is important to work on. Part of maintaining a positive and optimistic attitude is practicing techniques of mindfulness, deep breathing, body awareness and grounding techniques. These techniques allow you to connect with your mind and soul, and you can bring in your spirituality practices as well.
Take care of your MENTAL HEALTH
Now, thinking about your mental health is where we can bring in techniques to help specifically with anxiety but it is important to also remain aware of any other difficulties you are having (for example: depression, eating disorders, etc.).
We want to be able to counter anxiety-producing thoughts and create rational outcomes and positive counterstatements. So, how do we do this?
i) Relaxation techniques – yoga, meditation, calming music, getting a spa treatment, being present in nature, anything which relaxes you!
ii) Rationalisation – focus on the most likely scenario (for example: I will most likely be able to complete my work presentation even if I am nervous) and use past experiences to remind yourself that you have made it through similar anxiety provoking situations before.
iii) Emotional release – write down all of your anxieties on a piece of paper and tear it up / burn it / throw it away. Whilst doing this remind yourself that these anxieties do not control you, they are not who you are and you are releasing and removing them from your life.
iv) Worry list – create a list of your worries in order of most concerning to you to least concerning. Pick the least concerning worry to address first as this will probably be the easiest one to overcome and find a solution for whatever that situation is.
v) Build resilience – accept that not everything is within your means to control and even though things change and there can be chaos, like with the pandemic, stay focused on the bigger picture. It is easy to forget the bigger picture so if you need some help remembering stick some reminders up around your bedroom or workspace or wherever you see it most often (for example: it may be difficult right now to see if you will ever finish your degree with universities being closed so stick up notes around your desk saying “I will get this degree”, “I always work my hardest”, “I am trying my best”, etc).
vi) Anxiety journal – create an anxiety journal table to keep track of what your triggers are, what thoughts are produced because of this anxiety, what strategy you used to decrease that worry, and a positive counterstatement. Here is an example:
Trigger Immediate Thought Coping Strategy Positive Counter
Going to a party "No one will like me" Listened to calming "I have made friends
where you do "I'm going to say or do music in the car on the at other parties
not know anyone something embarrassing" way there quite easily"
"I do not look pretty Phoned a friend to get "I have topics which
enough" encouragement interest me to talk
Repeated the positive about"
counterstatement over "I look really good
and over in this new dress"
vii) Support – contact your friends and family for emotional support, whether that be in person or over technology, find your safe space to talk. You can also contact a professional for help and support if this is what you need.
viii) Self-care – finally, it is important always to practice self-care in whichever practice you enjoy. This could be taking a hot bath, reading a book, painting, etc.
Feeling anxious and sometimes overwhelmed by these worries is normal and completely understandable, especially currently, so please treat yourself with kindness, care, and compassion. Dealing with anxiety is a difficult journey and takes practice and time to manage. Please contact us if you have questions or needing any extra support.