7 Surprising Tips to Demolish Anxiety
If you struggle with anxiety including constant worry and catastrophizing by thinking about the worst-case scenarios and have physical symptoms like tension, nervousness, sweating, nausea, digestion, and sleep problems, here are seven surprising tips to not only calm your anxiety, but to demolish it. They are some of my favorite tips.
Hi. I’m Paige Pradko. I am a psychotherapist that specializes in anxiety disorders and OCD. Welcome to Therapy for a Better life.
If you are feeling symptoms of anxiety, I have left you a gift in the description of this video. It’s a downloadable pdf called, “Why do I feel that in my body? Explanations of bodily symptoms due to anxiety, stress, and panic.” First, I call these tips surprising, because I am shocked how many people do the wrong thing when it comes to treating their anxiety. They do all this stuff trying to calm down, but what they don’t know, is that they are making it worse. Let me explain. Doing a bunch of stuff like relaxation techniques and supplements and medications in the moment, to get rid of anxiety, sends your brain the message that anxiety is bad, and something that must be dangerous …..because you don’t want it. And your brain begins to fear anxiety symptoms in your body. And guess what, that causes your amygdala in your brain to get more activated and that causes your fight or flight system to get more activated every time your brain notices an anxiety symptom in your body. And It makes your anxiety and panic worse. Anxiety is calmed by using paradoxical approaches. We do the opposite of trying to get rid of anxiety. We welcome and embrace anxiety. This sends the communication to our brain that we are fine, we are safe, we are not bothered or afraid of our anxiety symptoms and our amygdala calms down and our anxiety decreases. Let me review a few tips to help you send helpful messages to your brain to calm down your anxiety instead of upping the ante. Because your response to your anxiety is the most important factor that will determine whether you make your anxiety better or worse. 1. Number 1. When you first notice an anxiety symptom, maybe you notice you are worrying, maybe you notice that you are jittery or sweating or tense. Identify what you are feeling or thinking: “I am having anxious thoughts about …..whatever your thought is.” “I am noticing that I am a little jittery.” Identifying and labeling what you notice is a method of cognitive defusion. It begins to separate you from the thought. 2. Number 2, Decide to be nonreactive to your anxiety. I am going to act like I am not concerned at all. I know that you may be uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable when I feel anxious, but my behavior is nonreactive. I don’t do a bunch of stuff like ….let me start deep breathing and meditation, or I better walk, or I need to take a medication or talk to someone, etc. None of that….I will talk later about when we do those kinds of things because those are all good techniques, but not in the moment you notice the anxiety. In the moment you feel anxiety, your job is to be nonreactive…you do nothing. 3. Number 3. I want to talk about your overall attitude towards anxiety and anxiety symptoms. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to change your attitude from thinking about anxiety as something you don’t want, to something that you want, and even welcome. Anxiety is a normal condition that we all have as humans. Your brain can misinterpret things as dangerous and then you must retrain your brain that you are indeed safe. I get so many questions from people who are embarrassed by conditions like sweating or their face flushing or are afraid of their heart racing or breathing changes or nausea and digestion problems or any number of other symptoms that they hate, and they fear. All they have been doing is trying to avoid situations that make them anxious to not have those symptoms. Their frustrations and fear and avoidance behaviors all send messages to the brain that cause their fight or flight system to stay activated and those symptoms get even more associated and connected to their anxiety response. Instead, change your attitude to one of welcoming the symptoms. Welcome the sweating, welcome the heart racing, welcome the nausea. I am not saying that it is comfortable. I am not eve saying that you really want those symptoms. But, you have to convince your brain that you want them for your anxiety response to calm down. The way to calm down your amygdala and anxiety response is to send messages to your brain that these symptoms are all fine with you, in fact you embrace them and even want more. I tell my anxiety even if it decides to visit me when I want to go to sleep that it is welcome to stay as long as it wants. I embrace and welcome it. 4. Okay, this next one, number 4 is a funny one, but it works for anxiety, rumination, OCD, what-if scenarios, catastrophizing and worrying. Sing your worry out loud. You can sing it to a tune like happy birthday, or you can rap your worry or use any tune you want. Singing the worry calms down your brain. I think your brain gets a little confused and thinks, “well she can’t be scared or worried if she is singing about it.” Or you can say your fear or worry out loud in a funny voice. It is another cognitive defusion technique. It sends the right kind of message to your brain. It works immediately. 5. Number 5 is to Have an attitude of willingness instead of resistance and avoidance. This is called Psychological Flexibility and it is a foundation of positive mental health and it means being willing and adaptive in life and not rigid and avoidant. This attitude can help you if you are avoiding situations and environments because they make you anxious. Just changing your attitude to one of being willing to be uncomfortable because you care about something or value something can make all the difference in how you feel. 6. If you watch my videos, then you likely know number 6, it is my I. A.M. method. It is a method that you can use in the moment that you notice that you are worried or feeling anxious or having an unwanted thought or sensation. It is an incidental exposure and response prevention technique. (I) Stands for Identify (I am having an anxious thought, a worry, an OCD thought, an uncomfortable sensation). This is a cognitive defusion technique. (A) Stands for Allow. You are going to allow the thought or sensation to just be there, just float there like it is background noise in your brain. But you are not going to give it attention. (This is that nonreactive approach I discussed, you are not sending an alarm to you brain with more worried thoughts or reactions. You are sending the right message by being nonreactive here.) (M) Stands for shifting your attention to something that you can focus on and do in the moment. It is not distraction. You still know the worry is there or the sensation or unwanted thought. But you are not checking on it or giving it attention. You are shifting your attention in the moment. This is a mindfulness technique. And (M) also stands for moving on with your day. When you begin to do this technique, you may have to do it more than once, but as you get better at it, it will become more automatic. 7. Number 7,, I want to review when you should do all that stuff that everyone suggests for relaxation and stress relief. When are you supposed to do diaphragmatic breathing or square breathing? When do you meditate or do progressive relaxation? When do you exercise and walk in nature, etc. All those practices are all healthy and wonderful, those activities fall under stress management and practicing healthy lifestyle habits. We all can benefit from practicing stress management and self-care daily for our overall wellbeing. But we practice them as a lifestyle, on a regular basis, like brushing your teeth. They are not practiced in response to your anxiety…in the moment you notice your anxiety. And now you know why, right? Because we do not want to alarm our brain that anxiety is bad and something that we want to get rid of. Now you understand that that makes it worse. Instead, you want to be nonreactive with your behavior, and have an attitude of allowing, welcoming, willingness and even embracing anxiety. And finally, we Remember, that there is no perfection here in treating anxiety. Just try your best, be patient, be compassionate towards yourself. You are training your brain that you are safe. You can interrupt a worry response, an obsessive thought, or an anxiety episode at anytime and try one of these suggestions. Don’t forget, I left you a gift in the description of the video. Until next time, I will see you in session.
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