Anxiety rates have skyrocketed since COVID-19 started. Social distancing, meant to slow the spread of the pandemic, has contributed to the spread of isolation and loneliness. People are left to choose between risking infection or declining mental health. Talk about a rock and a hard place. People who already had anxiety are seeing its intensity increase. Others who never had anxiety before are experiencing it for the first time. This article speaks about anxiety and some tips to deal with it. In response to what I am seeing in my clients, I decided to write an article on anxiety and some tips to deal with it.
There isn’t anything “wrong” with you
A number of my clients keep how they feel secret from the people in their life. I am really lucky in that my clients allow me in. They share with me how they are really feeling. Now some of my clients don’t “let me in” right away. After all they have no idea of who I am. How would you feel about letting someone see those deep dark secrets that you have?
Through consistently meeting with clients and demonstrating that I can handle whatever they have to share I start to build trust. With trust clients start to open up. One of the most common things I hear from clients is that they are embarrassed about how they feel.
Me: Okay so it sounds like you are dealing with some anxiety.
Client (avoiding eye contact): Yeah I guess you could say that.
Me: So what’s going on? I feel a little resistance coming from you in admitting that you are struggling with anxiety.
Client: Well yeah. I don’t want you to think I’m a loser or something. I like coming here and I don’t want you to get the wrong impression.
You don’t need to feel Ashamed
After having countless discussions like this with clients a central theme started to stand out to me. A lot of people feel ashamed about how they feel. Talk about a double whammy. Not only are they feeling anxiety in their life but on top of that they are feeling ashamed that they have anxiety.
My number one message to anyone who is struggling with anxiety is that you aren’t alone. If you can take only one thing away from this article let it be that if you are struggling with anxiety that does not mean that you are a bad person. It does not mean that you are a weak person. It just means that you are a person struggling with anxiety. Who you are is much more than just a diagnosis.
In light of the current environment I decided to write a post with 3 tips for dealing with anxiety.
1. Practice deep breathing:
I always recommend this for clients to use when they feel the anxiety start to come on. Specifically, I encourage them to practice box breathing.
- Inhale for 4 seconds
- Hold breath at top for 4 seconds
- Exhale for 4 seconds
- Wait for 4 seconds before next inhale
- Repeat this cycle 4 times
For some of my clients, struggling to breathe is a very prominent feature of their anxiety. Focusing on deep breathing and the count helps to slow the mind.
2. Exercise or walk for 15 minutes
A long time ago I read about this concept that it is easier to act your way into new thinking then to think your way into new acting. Based on this one of the things I work on with clients is “leading with the body.”
Many of my clients describe their anxiety as starting in the body. They feel it before they start thinking about it. Once it gains momentum they can start to shut down. Numerous exercises show the positive link between exercise and anxiety.
For some people exercise can work as well as medication in treating anxiety. That’s why exercise is one of my go to recommendations for clients struggling with anxiety. Exercising serves two purposes. It provides an outlet for the anxiety. It’s a way to burn it off. Additionally, exercise triggers the release of endorphins. These are hormones which make you feel good. You may have heard of this referred to as a “runners high” before.
3. Work on your Sleep
I work on sleep with almost all of my clients. Optimizing sleep and exercise with clients always has a positive effect on their mental health. People struggling with anxiety are not an exception.
Now I can hear you like I hear my clients. You might be thinking, “Andrew my anxiety is preventing me from sleep. I get it that more sleep would help but I can’t do it until I get the anxiety under control.”
I hear you. I understand that anxiety can disrupt sleep. I am referring to factors that you can control. Shut down the electronics an hour before bed. Start to abide by a bedtime. Wake up at the same time every day. For some clients a shower helps mark the transition to bed. For others they like to meditate, journal, or read.
Focusing on the logistics of your sleep routine can help trick your mind into mitigating your anxiety. Even if it does not reduce your anxiety, a good night(s) sleep will do wonders in letting us tackle the underlying anxiety.
What do I do if I need help beyond these tips?
Sometimes the tips above can help reduce anxiety. However, in other instances they won’t get rid of the anxiety completely. If you feel that your anxiety is starting to impact the quality of your life, please contact a professional. Feel free to reach out to us by using the contact box on the right side of this screen at the top of this page. We are here to help you address your anxiety and to create a life where your anxiety no longer drives it.