by Alana Gregg, MS
Anxiety seems to be the norm in a world that is ever changing. Most of the time we are in survival mode just trying to keep our heads above water. We all have our go to ways of dealing with anxiety. In the counseling world, we call them coping skills. Some of these things can be positive and some can be negative. Take a moment to stop and make a list in your head of the ways you typically respond to anxiety.
Often we try to deal with these feelings by doing things that will cause quick relief. It’s understandable. No one likes to feel pain. But as you’ve most likely experienced, once the numbness wears off, the problem is still there waiting. To an extreme, some people cope with anxiety by using drugs or alcohol. They are immediate uppers or downers, whatever we are seeking in that moment to level out our mood. But many ways we cope with anxiety seem really harmless. We watch TV, scroll through our phones, eat, sleep, exercise. You’re probably thinking, wait a minute! Aren’t those healthy coping strategies? They can be. So how do you know if you are coping with your anxiety or avoiding it?
Ask yourself three questions before you decide how to deal with your anxiety.
1) What is this coping strategy doing for me right now? It is important to identify if this is a way to calm myself down so that I can continue on with my day or is this a way to detach from reality. If you are detaching then odds are there is something you are trying to avoid. Trust me, I get the temptation. Sometimes life is so hard that we desperately want to shut down. But when that becomes a pattern, you end up hiding from life instead of really living it.
2) Am I doing this excessively? Sometimes we start out wanting to watch one show and before you know it, we have watched eight. Or we set out to eat one donut and all of a sudden the box is empty. It is so easy to get sucked into these things because they feel good. And they all release the same chemicals in the pleasure center of our brain that drugs and alcohol do. But eventually they will cause more problems then prevent them.
3) Do I go back and process what I was anxious about? When your body is in a fight or flight mode, your mind is incapable of thinking clearly. It is simply trying to survive. The goal of a coping skill is to help calm the body down so that you can return to a “normal” physical state. Once that happens, you need to take the time to think through what was going on in your mind. When you are able to process what you are feeling, it helps you let go of those things so you can move forward. Numbing them keeps you in an unhealthy cycle that keeps you stuck.
It takes a lot of hard work and reflection to be aware of what is going on inside of you. And it is a constant process. If you’ve never been taught how to take care of your emotional health, it makes sense you don’t know how. We can’t expect ourselves to be great at something we’ve never known. However, learning to identify what we feel, why we feel it, and what to do with that feeling is an extremely valuable life skill.
Start Anxiety Therapy in Ambler, PA
Our therapists at Lime Tree Counseling in Ambler, PA specialize in teaching people to take care of themselves emotionally. We are experts in anxiety counseling, trauma & PTSD therapy, and addictions counseling. Please send us a message today to schedule your first appointment. We want to help you live the life you were made to live!