Emotions suck, that’s a fact of life. Anxiety, sadness, anger, etc. Usefull in a primal sense and a modern sense, but they always come when we don’t want them to. We’re never actually prepared to deal with them. A lot of us have anxiety disorders or just generally struggle to comprehend and compose out emotion-fueled thoughts, hence why we have an amazing thing called coping techniques!
A lot of you reading this may not know, but I have generalized anxiety disorder. Meaning I have onset attacks of overwhelming anxiety, sometimes, what feels like, completely at random. Lately, I’ve been dipping back into my old anxiety pool, so I’ve been busting out sime of my coping techniques. I figured maybe it would be good to share some of my favorites with you all.
Quick reminder though, some of these or all of them may not work for you, and that’s completely ok! All of our brains are wired a little differently and we all get anxiety from different causes. If none of these work for you I definitely recommend finding some of your own that do. And if they do work for you, that’s great! Remember it’s ok to grow and adapt to new ones as well though.
Thus, we begin my list of…..
#1 Quick Mantra Message
• Write a mantra that works for you every time you need it. You can write it in notebooks, in your phone, on your clothes, arms, etc. Any time you need to see it, write it down! I usually write mine on the inner side of my wrist. The one I’m currently using is “Fear<God.” It’s an excellent reminder to me that my fear is only a weak, miniscule part of me, and God is so much greater than it. I can get through it even if it feels rough. This is usually good for when you feel anxiety coming on early. If you’re in the middle of a panic attack it’s less likely to do what it’s intended for.
• Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “I hear that all the time, it’s not that easy.” But I’m not talking about some yoga class Namaste meditation. Meditating is when you hone in on a specific thought. It can be as simple as closing your eyes, focusing your breathing, and centering your thoughts. It’s super important to meditate regularly, even when you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. Meditation is most useful prior to having anxiety, but it also works great when you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack. It definitely works best shortly after you’ve started to feel anxious, but can be effective for some in the midst of a panic attack.
#3 5 Senses, 5 Thoughts
• (I’m not entirely sure where I learned this one, but I’m not taking credit it for it at all. If you know who came up with it email me to give them credit.) 5 Senses is a grounding technique, and, like the ones before, it works best when you’re just beginning to feel anxious. What you do is go down through the 5 senses mentioning a few of each you’re using. Start by naming 5 things you see, then 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you can taste. While you count down you should begin to feel much more centered than you were prior.
#4 Thought Box
• I carry around a little prayer box in my book bag for when I go to school. When I start to feel anxious about something I grab a piece of paper from the little tin and right down whatever anxiety I’m feeling in that moment. This allows me to get a general understanding for exactly what it is bothering me. After closing it in the box I tell myself that’s where the feeling stays, with God, and that I can handle something so small it can fit into a tiny box. If you’re not Christian like myself, you can just call it a thought box. It functions exactly the same except you’re not giving up this anxiety to God, you’re giving it up to yourself.
#5 Listen to Music
• Sometimes when I’m feeling really anxious and none of my techniques have worked so far I pop in some earbuds, turn on some upbeat or relaxing music, and let my mind wonder. I listen to a large variety of music, ranging from punk rock to musical soundtracks to contemporary Christian. The music that I found most calms me is contemporary Christian, classical music, and music from the 1920s. This one is very subjective. You’re taste in music could be very different from mine, and the music that relaxes you can vary from day to day. It’s most certainly a trial and error process. You also might not have the ability to play music when you’re having anxiety, when this happens I tend to hum to myself whatever song comes to mind. It’s not as effective as listening to music, but it can work pretty well if you allow it to.
#6 Journal it
• Write it down! Let it all out! Every single thought in your head, from your anxieties to what you plan on having for dinner. Whatever thoughts are going through your mind, write them down on paper or in your phone. All of my school notebooks are filled with little side notes from when I’ve had panic attacks. They say all kinds of crazy things, and usually don’t make any actual sense. And that’s perfectly fine because my thoughts in that moment don’t make any logical sense either. For me this works best on paper, but I also keep a little journal in my phone for when I don’t have access to a pen and paper. I usually just write in my notes app pre-installed on my phone, sometimes I download an app completely dedicated to journaling.
#7 Get Some Alone Time
• This one can only work if you actually have the ability and the time to go somewhere by yourself. In school I tend to go to the bathroom or wander the halls for a quick minute. At home I go to my bedroom and lock my door. Your alone time could last anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 or more hours. Give yourself however much time you need and have. When I’m at school I only have about 10 minutes before a teacher goes looking for me, so I usually just look around, play a quick app on my phone, or just give myself a minute to think. At home I have much more freedom, so I do whatever it is I feel I need in that moment. I draw, listen to music, watch TV, write, or take a quick nap. This gives you the freedom to either distract yourself from what’s stressing you, or the alone time you need to freak out and express your thoughts.
• I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing this in the middle of a panic attack or when you’re at work or school. It would most likely just lead to more panic and you never handling your stressor. You also should definitely not do this every time you feel anxious. Trust me, I’ve done it. All it does it cause you to never handle your emotions and leaves you stressed every time you come back to reality. This works best when nothing else has so far, and when you have the ability to distract yourself for a few minutes. To disassociate all you have to do is let your imagination wander, read a book, watch a movie, draw, or do some other mindless activity. It gives you some much needed rest for your brain, and the ability to escape your stress if only for a brief moment. Afterwards you can come back to your prior situation and handle it with new eyes and a fresh mind.
#9 Rant to Someone
• Sometimes all we need is a good rant. Find a friend or family member you trust, type it up on an online forum, post about it, whatever you need and can do in that moment. Let whatever it is stressing you completely out. Free your thoughts. I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing this to a complete stranger though, or to an unsuspecting acquaintance. And you definitely shouldn’t do it all the time. That just leaves whoever you’re ranting to emotionally drained, and your problem still unsolved.
#10 Let it all out
• Have a panic attack, freak out, cry your eyes out. It’s perfectly normal and perfectly ok. Emotions exist to help us understand a situation and it’s impact on us. Our reactions exist to respond to that emotion, and they’re completely natural. Sometimes, after you’ve tried everything, every coping technique you could think of, and nothing worked, you just need to let it all out. Express what you’re feeling, cry and scream. It’s ok. We all do it. Afterwards you’ll come back feeling a bit drained, but you’ll have a much fresher outlook on whatever it is that caused you to panic in the first place.
I hope some of these work for you! If they don’t, I hope you find some that do. Just remember, you’re not alone in this and you can get through it! If you guys have any other coping techniques that work well for you comment them so myself and others can see them. Maybe you’ll provide us with one we’ve never seen before.
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