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6 Anxiety Tips That Will Change Your Life!

An image representing anxiety of a lady looking concerned. She has her eyes closed, with her fingers to her mouth as she's leaning her face on her hands with elbows on a table in front of her. She is wearing a cardigan and it looks calming

Introduction

In this blog I’ll be exploring 6 anxiety tools that will change your life.

As a therapist who has been working with clients for 6 years now, anxiety has been one of the most common issues that clients present with. And as a person, anxiety is something I have personal experience with myself.

In this blog we explore what anxiety is, how it can impact you & the signs you need to be aware of so that you can begin to challenge anxiety. 

*Please note, although I am an experienced therapist, this article is in no way a replacement for therapy & I would always encourage you to seek support if anxiety is something that you’re currently struggling with. 

What we will cover:

  • What is anxiety?
  • What are the signs & symptoms of anxiety?
  • How can you challenge anxious thoughts?
  • 6 Strategies to help you manage anxiety
  • How to find support

Anxiety is when you react to danger when there isn't any real danger. Anxiety-based worries usually focus on worrying about things in the future, or worrying about things that you think could happen.
Although as humans we have evolved, the old part of our brain still reacts to danger (real or perceived) in this automatic way.

Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn. 

Fight Flight Freeze & Fawn, are your body's natural reaction to danger.

Fight – Prepare to stay & face the threat

Flight – Flee the situation

Freeze – Become unable to move or react

Fawn – Pacify, appease the person or attempt to avoid the threat

Remember, your brain has one job – to keep you alive & it cannot tell whether the threat you're facing is real or perceived (imagined). This is why when you become anxious about something, the physiological reactions also kick in.

It's rare to be in these dangerous situations nowadays where this is needed, but our ancestors relied on this to survive. For example from a predator hunting them. It's our built in alarm system that sometimes gets stuck & responds to feelings of danger & fear rather than an actual threat.

Once a person's stress response has been activated, the human body goes into survival mode. What this means is that there will be physical reactions to the situation – including a rapid heart-rate, sweating & a surge of energy as the hormones cortisol & adrenaline are released to help you survive the perceived threat. This helps you to become more alert & able to react to danger quickly.

This is great when it's needed – giving you the speed to jump out of the path of a speeding car! But when you're stuck in this fear cycle & you're often if not always) on high alert & ready for potential danger, it's probably anxiety.

The response may be triggered by events like public speaking, or as a result of unhelpful thinking patterns where you've imagined the worst case scenario & begin to feel scared & worried about everyday things. The thought becomes the trigger for the response, regardless of actual danger.

Common Types Of Anxiety

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

If you worry a lot about many different things in life, it's likely to be GAD. For example, overthinking everything, worrying about if you did something okay, but also worrying about money, health, time & your family most of the time.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety is where you are anxious about social situations, for example meeting with friends, going out somewhere new or attending a party. It can become quite severe for some, leading to phobias like agoraphobia. You may avoid the postman, and situations where you come into contact with people like going to the shops.

Panic Disorder

This can be a frightening form of anxiety & si where you have sudden & intense feelings of fear that can lead to panic attacks. With panic attacks, your whole body is in the fight / flight response. Your heart will be racing, breathing shallow which increases the sense of fear as you think you're experiencing a heart attack or are unable to breathe.

Health Anxiety

(Also known as hypochondria) is linked to OCD & can develop following a personal health scare or someone close to you experiencing serious illness or dying. It's usually fears around serious illness like cancer & there's often a compulsive need to check your body for signs of ill health.

Phobias

Phobias are a common form of anxiety characterised by an overwhelming need to avoid certain things or situations. Phobias are where you develop an unrealistic & intense feeling of fear of it which can lead to you avoiding it as much as possible. This can include social phobia & agoraphobia, both of which can limit your life in many ways. When faced with the phobia, panic attacks can happen as your level of fear is so intense.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

PTSD occurs following a traumatic experience. This condition requires specialist support to ensure that no further trauma is experienced. It may happen following a bad car accident, time on duty in the forces or a frightening experience that left you traumatised.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is an anxiety disorder where you experience repetitive, obsessive thoughts & feelings that cause you deep distress. These obsessive thoughts result in compulsive behaviours or rituals that you feel you have to do in order to limit or prevent those thoughts from happening.

For example, if your fear is based around germs & illness, being in public & using shared facilities, like sitting on a bus can feel dangerous. When you return home you need to immediately wash your body & change your clothes because of the risk of contamination. Or, you may fear something bad will happen when you leave the house & you're compelled to do rituals like checking windows & doors a specific number of times to prevent fires or burglaries from happening, or from something bad happening to yourself or your loved ones.

1. Recognise The Signs & Get Curious!

Understanding that your body & mind are warning you that you need to go careful because there's a threat around means that you can learn to recognise when it's a false alarm & ‘switch it off' before it becomes too intense.

Now that you’ve identified your main anxiety signals, you can use this to recognise the next time you’re beginning to feel anxious.

If you can, make a note in your mind, notebook or phone as it happens, or shortly afterwards. Record any of the anxiety symptoms (eg increased heart rate, sweating etc.) as you notice them.

Ask yourself if there are any other reasons why you might be experiencing these symptoms? Is it because you’re excited about something, or are you overtired?

If it is anxiety, take a moment to check your surroundings to see if there is a real threat. If there isn’t a real threat of danger to you, you can begin to focus on calming your mind & distracting your focus.

Think of these symptoms as your alarm system & as the cue to take positive action to challenge any thoughts as they arise. This becomes easier & quicker the more you do it, until eventually it replaces those automatic responses & the episodes of anxiety will lessen.

Finding the pause, checking your surroundings & working at calming your body so that your brain realises that you’re not in danger is a brilliant way to limit the impact & intensity of anxiety!

2. CBT Tools For Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an effective therapy approach for conditions like anxiety & stress. It tends to be a short-term form of therapy with clear goals & proven success rates.

In simple terms, CBT focuses on the links between thoughts, feelings & behavioural responses. Take a look at the ABC model below:

A – Activating Event (trigger)

B – Beliefs / Interpretations / feelings (about the event)

C – Consequence (behavioural, physical & emotional responses)

For example, the Activating event (trigger) is having to give a presentation in front of your peers.

The Beliefs associated with that will then influence your emotions, physical reactions & subsequent Consequences (behaviours that happen as a result of those thoughts).

A – Presentation in front of peers

B“I can’t do this, I will say something stupid & people will laugh at me”

C – Feeling anxious & worried. Heart racing & feeling sweaty as you get more nervous, which reinforces those initial beliefs. Because of this you try to get out of doing the presentation at all.

It’s the beliefs that you have around standing up in front of your peers that activate the emotions & the behaviour – not the presentation itself!

If you were a confident speaker & you loved standing up in front of others, this event wouldn’t trigger a negative response.

The associated belief & emotions of the event could be because of a previous negative experience, but what’s most important in terms of CBT is tackling the associated negative thoughts & beliefs so that you can then change these unwanted responses to situations that you find difficult or uncomfortable.

CBT aims to help you find those errors in your thinking & help you challenge & reframe them so that you no longer feel anxious or worried when faced with the triggers that you currently have.

**Please note, this is a very light explanation of CBT. Please consider seeking advice if you are struggling with anxiety.

2a) Thinking Errors

When you experience anxiety, your brain gets very good at creating lots of unhelpful thoughts. These thoughts are powerful & in time it can be difficult to work out what’s true or not. Even things that you know deep down are illogical feel & seem so true that it kick starts your fear response (anxiety)

EVENT – I made a minor mistake at work

AUTOMATIC THOUGHT – That’s it, I’m going to get fired. They will think I’m a complete idiot!!

BEHAVIOUR RESPONSE – Panic, overthink the situation – Imagining the worst case scenario. Unable to concentrate & feel like a failure.

2b) Keep A Thoughts Log

Negative automatic thoughts are usually irrational & happen so quickly that you’re not aware of the process. They can impact your mood & behaviour instantly, and are common with anxiety.

Use a chart to keep a record of your automatic thoughts, feelings & responses to anxiety triggers. Then, in the next table you’ll be able to think about how you can replace these negative thoughts with more rational & positive ones.

Next, identify how you could challenge the thoughts that you described above as they happen.

Think about how this new thought will make you feel & how your behaviour following the event may change.

An image of a sample Anxiety Thought / Behaviour Response worksheet. It has 3 columns, with the text "Event/Trigger" "Automatic Thought" "Behaviour Response" "New Thought" "New Behaviour" Across the top of the table and 3 empty rows beneath it.
Example Thought Log For Anxiety

2c) Common Thinking Traps

Read through each of the examples below, then reflect on the ones that resonate with you the most.

Quite often it can feel like you’re the only person in the world having these thoughts, so it can be reassuring to know that it’s not just you

Fortune Telling / Predicting: Fortune-telling refers to predicting how things will turn out based only on your worry or fear. It’s usually a negative prediction & increases the worry and anxiety you have about a situation.

“It’s going to be too difficult for me, I’ll just mess it up”

Self Blame / Personalising: Over-exaggerating your role & taking too much responsibility for any bad things that happen. You tend to believe that if things don’t work out how you hoped, it’s all your fault.

“We lost today, it was all my fault. We’d have won if it wasn’t for me”

Mind Reading: Similar to fortune telling, mind-reading is when you begin to imagine how someone will react or what you believe they think about you. For example, you walk past someone you know in the street & they don’t say hello to you. You automatically assume they don’t like you, that you’ve done something wrong to them when in fact they simply didn’t see you or they were distracted in their own world & hadn’t noticed you!

“They ignored me, I know they don’t like me.”

All or Nothing thinking: This can be a little more complex, but essentially it means that the grey areas, or middle ground aren’t considered. Things are either good or bad. You are either capable or incapable. Perfectionism can crop up with these kinds of thought patterns.

“If I don’t get it perfect it’s a failure.”

Feelings are Facts: You respond to your feelings, or you believe feelings over logic or facts. That’s not to say ‘trusting your gut’ is wrong – this is different & refers to when you feel a certain way about yourself & then believe that to be factual.

“I feel worthless, so I have no value.”

Shoulds / Rules: These thinking traps can be deeply ingrained. Believing that you & others should behave in a certain way & anything less is not acceptable. It’s also applied to how you’re feeling about things & how you behave. Believing that if you’re not doing it right, you’re not good enough or that things won’t work out for you.

“I should do better if I want them to like me”

Filtering: Filtering has a huge impact on your mood & overall sense of wellbeing. When something bad or challenging happens, it acts as proof that things always go wrong for you. You tend to focus on negative experiences to reaffirm this belief, filtering out any of the positives that are there as well.

“Nothing ever goes right for me, why bother?!”

Catastrophising: You usually imagine the worst case scenario whenever anything happens or you’re faced with a minor obstacle. For example, a loved one is late coming home & you convince yourself there’s been a fatal car accident. Or making an error in an exam & believing that your dreams of a career are over forever.

“I messaged my son an hour ago & they haven’t texted me back. Something bad has happened, I know it has”

Universal Thinking: Universal thinking is where people will over generalise in their thinking & their beliefs. If you make a mistake it becomes a lot grander than that one specific incident. For example, if you were focused on eating healthily but had a day where you overindulged in lots of food & unhealthy snacks, your universal thinking may sound like…

“What’s the point in trying, I never succeed in anything I do”

Reflection Activity For Thinking Traps

How could you challenge those old thinking traps? Use the example below to create your own Thinking Trap Log!

Another sample thought / behaviour table image. This has 3 columns with the text "Thinking Trap" "Example of my Thoughts & Behaviour" "Alternative Thoughts & Behaviour" Written in the column with 3 empty rows beneath.

3. Grounding Exercises

Grounding exercises are things you can do to stop anxiety in its track. As you know, anxiety is linked to the survival threat being activated & usually linked to worrying about things that haven’t yet happened. To give your brain enough space to escape this response, grounding exercises can give you the pause you need to regain control & calm your reaction to the trigger.

  • Breathwork

Always remember the simplest go-to grounding tool – your breath! Focus your attention on your breath, take a long, deep breath, slowly counting in for 1,2,3,4, then pause for 1,2 & then exhale slowly for 1,2,3,4.

As you do this, visualise the air travelling through your body & back out. Pay attention to the cycle of the breath & the pause after you inhale & exhale. Keep going until you can feel yourself relaxing.

  • 5,4,3,2,1 – THE 5 SENSES TECHNIQUE

The 5,4,3,2,1 technique requires you to shift your focus & become fully present as it calls upon your 5 senses. The calmer your body is, the sooner your mind will follow.

Slow your breathing & look around you. Then focus on:

  • 5 Things you can SEE – This could be a pen, a mark on the wall, a tree – anything that’s around you. Take your time with this, pausing to really look at the object & notice its shape, size & colour.
  • 4 Things you can HEAR – A ticking clock, a cat meowing, a car or music in the distance. Challenge yourself to focus on the differences in the sounds – loudest / closest / nicest / tones…
  • 3 Things you can TOUCH – You don’t need to touch them, so take your time & imagine what the objects would feel like if you touched them. Hard / soft / smooth / rough…
  • 2 things you can SMELL – A cup of coffee nearby, wet grass, a pencil. If you can’t smell anything distinct, imagine things with a strong smell like an orange, or your favourite fragrance. Do the smells remind you of anything? If you have any perfume or hand cream, use some to see if the familiar sensation & smell will help bring more calmness.
  • 1 Thing you can TASTE – If you can’t taste anything right now, (e.g. mint from a chewing gum / coffee), either look for things around you, or imagine what your favourite food tastes like. Pay attention to how it feels when you taste the flavours!

These can all help bring comfort in any situation. You can run through them quickly, or if you are able to, take your time & really allow your mind to focus on the different senses as your body begins to relax.

4. Distraction Techniques

Movement

Shaking off that energy is another brilliant way to manage anxiety. Depending on what you’re physically able to do & where you are, getting up, jumping or dancing around can help to shake that energy up & release some of it.

Imagine that ball of survival energy – cortisol & adrenaline – that was ready to save your life from mortal danger – is now just trapped inside your still body where your brain has been working at 100mph, but your body wasn’t..! We need to get that energy out!

If you’re at home, pop your headphones in or turn up the speaker & dance like nobody's watching you! Close the curtains, embrace your inner Mick Jagger or Beyoncé & move your body!

If dancing isn’t your thing, do any kind of activity that requires you to physically move – cleaning, walking, gardening etc.

Not only does moving your body release those feel good hormones, it will help you release the energy built up through anxiety!

Shift Your Focus

If you can, grab an object. It might be small like a coin, marble, pen, or something bigger like a book or a cup. What you’re going to do is put all of your attention towards that object.

Imagine it’s the 1st time you’ve ever seen the object & you’re examining it for the 1st time. Look closely at the colours. Do the colours change as it rolls around & hits the light? How does it feel in your hand? Is it smooth / Cold / Bumpy / Sharp? How heavy is it? What’s the shape? 

Keep your focus on the object until you can feel yourself become more relaxed. You may find it useful to keep something with you, on a keyring or in your pocket.

5. Fill Your Cup

Creating a balanced life where you get time to do the things that light you up & bring you joy is crucial in maintaining good mental health.

What brings you joy? What makes you feel good about yourself? What are some of your favourite things to do? Once you’ve thought of a few things, plan how you’re going to make time for some of these each day or week.

There’s no right or wrong with this. For some people a spa day with a massage might be their top choice, but for others this would be a nightmare! It may include things like painting, singing, long walks, cosy nights in, lighting your favourite candle & relaxing in a comfy chair, or meeting up with friends!

Journaling can be another useful tool when you're managing anxiety. It allows you to empty your head of the racing thoughts – a little like brain dumping. When our minds get overwhelmed with thoughts, worries and fears, it can be even more difficult to separate yourself from the thought.

I have an Anxiety Journal available that you might find useful, otherwise use a notepad or digital journal for you to pick up whenever you need to free some space in your mind!

6. Make An Anxiety Plan

An anxiety plan can be a brilliant tool to help you feel more confident & in control when you’re out & about, especially in high triggering situations.

Make a note of 5 things you can do to lessen any feelings of anxiety in the moment. Think about the grounding techniques or choose a friend to call. How can you change your environment or challenge your thoughts?

Meet The Author

Lynsey Wall, Coach & Mentor at Coach Writes. About me - A headshot of Lynsey smiling. Wearing a black t-shirt, blue framed glasses. Office walls behind her.

Hey there! I'm Lynsey, a fellow entrepreneur, therapist, and accountability business coach. With over 5 years’ experience of running businesses, and over a decade as a tutor and trainer, I've learned the value of effective time management in creating a thriving business and a fulfilling life.

I'm passionate about sharing practical tips and insights to help fellow entrepreneurs find their rhythm and achieve their goals while maintaining a sense of balance. Join me on this journey of mastering time together & staying as authentic to yourself as you can.

Time efficiency is key to maintaining and growing my businesses. I have lived with chronic illness – ME/CFS since 2011 and since then I retrained as a counsellor, achieved a distinction for an MA in Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice; all while running 3 businesses! I want that for you as well & it is possible with the right support and pathway to success.

To find out more visit The Authentic Growth Community

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