Ever had anxiety suddenly appear out of nowhere? It’s just the worst, amiright?
Here are six quick and easy ways for you to fight back and cope when anxious thoughts strike.
Distract, Self Soothe and Improve the Moment Technique
The ACCETPS and IMPROVE strategy used in dialectical behavior therapy is a fantastic tool for getting through moments when intrusive thoughts pop into your head or when racing thinking takes over. It’s simple – first, distract yourself from the thought(s) and soothe yourself, and then select an activity that will improve the moment.
Distracting yourself from the thought(s)
Activity: Start doing an activity you love, such as reading or cooking
Contribute: Focus on helping someone else, such as shovelling a neighbor’s driveway or sending a note of encouragement to someone who needs it
Comparisons: Think back to a time when you weren’t doing as well as you are now and notice how far you have come
Emotions: Chose a positive emotion that you want to feel, such as love or humour, and try to connect with it
Push: Envision the thoughts as a cloud or balloon and then envision yourself pushing or blowing them away
Thoughts: Select a different thought that is positive or boring and focus your attention on that instead
Sensations: Start doing something that gives you a (safe) physically intense sensation, such as eating something spicy or taking a cold shower
Then improve the moment
Images: Go to your ‘happy place’ and visualize yourself somewhere calm and serene
Meaning: Reflect on what you are going through and try to find some personal meaning in it
Pray: Speak silently or out loud to any spiritual entity you find soothing
Relaxation: Take deep breaths and focus on relaxing your face and shoulders
One thing in the moment: Put all of your attention into whatever activity you are currently doing and try to keep yourself as present as possible
Vacation: Take a break. Stop what you are doing and go for a walk or watch some tv
Encourage: Become your own personal cheerleader! Say all the things you need to hear to get through the moment.
Instead of distracting yourself from difficult thoughts, mindfulness techniques allow you to sit in the moment until it passes.
Step One: Identity the feelings that you are having.
Step Two: Name the feelings. You can even say them out loud. Sad. Angry. Anxious.
Step Three: Identify where in the body the feelings live. Focus your attention there.
Step Four: Keep going until the feeling passes. Trust that it will and that you will feel okay again.
Staying in the moment when you are having intrusive or racing thoughts can be tough. If you find yourself slipping, you can practice grounding techniques to bring you back to the present. Try the 54321 strategy
- Name five things that you can see in the room around you. Chair, dog, shoe, cup, book.
- Name four things that you can feel. Feet to the floor. Skin to shirt. Ring on my finger. Sofa supporting me.
- Name three things you can hear around you. Clock ticking on the wall. Refrigerator humming. Dog snoring.
- Two things you can smell around you. Fresh cut grass. Burning candle.
- One thing you can taste. Cinnamon gum.
Worry Jar/Worry Spot
Put boundaries around when you worry. Write down the thoughts that are bothering you and put them in a jar. If they are still bugging you, commit to spending some time unpacking the worry jar in a designated worry spot in your home. Read each one out loud and ask yourself “is this something that affects me right now?” Most of our intrusive/racing thoughts are concerns about the past or the future. If there is nothing that can be done to in this exact moment, let it go and deal with it if and when you need to.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
If you are having trouble relaxing, try releasing tension one part of your body at a time.
- Find somewhere to sit or lie down. Close your eyes.
- Start by tensing your feet, hold three seconds and then let it go.
- Tense your calves, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
- Tense your thighs, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
- Tense your butt, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
- Tense your abs and lower back, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
- Tense your shoulders, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
- Tense your arms, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
- Tense your neck, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
- Tense your face, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
Want to chat more about working through anxiety? I can help with that. Click here to schedule your free consult and get started.
Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP