There are some easy tools that anyone can use to cope with their feelings of anxiety. They include:
1. Learning more about anxiety: This will help you to understand what is happen when you start to feel increasingly anxious. First, remember that we all feel anxious at times. It can help us to prepare for and cope with hard tasks – such as sitting an exam or teaching a class. However, it leads to problems when the danger isn’t real yet our body is signalling a high state of alert.
2. Learning strategies that help us relax: The two most common strategies for relaxing and unwinding are calming down our breathing and muscle relaxation. The former involves taking slow, gentle breaths (breathing in through the nose, pausing for a few seconds, then breathing out slowly through the mouth, again). The latter involves learning how to tense and relax the different muscles - and then repeating this until our stress levels fall.
3. Actively challenging our anxious thoughts: When we’re anxious and tense we often see the world as a threatening and hostile place. This usually reflects faulty, negative thinking where we jump to conclusions or expect the worse to happen. This is out of proportion, exaggerated thinking which is unrealistic – and makes us feel uptight. A strategy for helping is replacing faulty thinking with a more realistic and accurate approach. This necessitates us challenging our automatic thinking so we see things in a clearer, less distressing way. Of course, it takes practise and effort to shift our change anxious thinking – but it’s worth the effort in the end
4. Facing our fears: One of the best ways of dealing with our fears is exposing ourselves to what makes us feel afraid. For example, if you avoid being with people as this leaves you feeling anxious then the best way forward is to simply face your fear. You could make a list that goes from “least to most scary” - and then reward yourself each time you move a level up the list.
Note: In many ways, it just takes practise and a conscious decision to not be beaten by anxiety!