Coping Tools for Anxiety
Anxiety is a tricky emotion. It's sticky and uncomfortable - causing a sense of overwhelm that can sometimes be paralyzing.
"Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health illnesses, affecting one in ten Canadians."²
Anxiety is also twofold. On the one hand, it actually serves a purpose in our lives, and so it's normal to feel anxious from time to time. Anxiety is a natural response to stress. When there is a perceived threat (or danger) in our environment, anxiety is ignited to keep us as safe as possible. Anxiety as a stress response is normal in these situations. Our body instinctively knows how to protect itself, and therefore engages in the stress response (flight-fight-freeze response) to keep us safe. This is our nervous system's way of dealing with the perceived threat.
When being helpful, anxiety can help us stay focused on approaching work deadlines, prepare well for a public speaking engagement, and even arrive early for a job interview.
Depending on the situation at hand, our stress response will also help us leave (flee) the threatening environment, get us to be aggressive (fight) towards the threat, or tense up and become immobile (freeze) to ensure our survival.³
On the other hand, anxiety can be extremely unhelpful. On this side of the stress response, anxiety can be so overwhelming that we numb out or dissociate (shutdown) to allow the possibility of an escape from the perceived threat.³
When trying to determine if the anxiety you’re having are typical, or the sign of something more problematic, it helps to view anxiety on a continuum. It can vary in severity from mild uneasiness to panic, and it can vary in frequency from occasional distress to constant unease.²
Wherever our stress response takes us, it is important to know that we can feel calm and grounded again. Our anxious feelings are temporary. The anxiety provoking situation(s) will pass. In order to help us move through anxiety, we can engage in a variety of coping tools, such as breath work, meditation, mindfulness, movement/exercise, social/familial support, or professional support.
One of my favourite new coping tools for anxiety is the Butterfly Hug. This tool is grounding and calming in nature. It is accessible at any time. And it goes like this...