Building a Tool Box of Anxiety Coping Skills

Time for Change

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Anxiety is a natural part of life. When a person has an anxiety disorder (AD), anxiety is something we must learn to live with – one way or another. It is not going away. Our body is wired that way. It should not be an excuse, however. Society does not accept someone with diabetes to refrain from treatment, continue with unhealthy habits and expect people to just feel sorry for them. Our disorder is no different. After diagnosis, it is time to seek treatment and roll up our sleeves and work hard toward changing unhealthy habits. For me treatment was changing my diet, my class of friends, my job, and my outlook on life – an attitude adjustment if you will. Becoming a practicing Christian was a huge step in my treatment. Changing unhealthy habits is a continuing process for everyone but especially for those of us with an AD, our sanity depends on it.

Learning Coping Techniques

For me, this change meant learning one coping technique at a time and after a while, I began to build a tool box of coping skills. When I find myself going through tough times, my anxiety flares up and, inevitably, makes the situation a whole lot worse. I just look around in my tool box to see what may help. Sometimes I select the wrong tool not realizing it for a while, which just makes matters worse, and delays the relief. Most of the time I get it right or I learn a new tool. EVERY TIME I experience a life event that I have trouble dealing with, I get frustrated because people in my world do not understand what is actually happening. Every now and then I get angry. I know I am smart, capable, honest, kind, good with people and talented. All that goes out the window, for a brief moment, when I have an anxiety attack and confuse those people around me, heck, I confuse myself.

When I first started dealing with AD, I thought I fell off the “managing it” wagon, so to speak, when anxiety began to rear its ugly head taking over my mind and my body. Today I recognize that I am simply having an anxiety attack. That does not mean it gets easier, it just gets manageable. You know you are eventually going to get through it. You learn techniques to get through the anxiety in a healthier way that leaves less aftermath whether your anxiety attack lasts an hour or a month. These days, most of the time no one ever knows I am going through an anxiety attack. I nip it in the bud. Make no mistake, inside my body is a raging war of hormones, but I can keep it in check. Sometimes I have an event happen or a series of events happen that just throw me off my game and I get emotional, overwhelmed with anxiety and downright scared.

Quiet is Important

It is during these times I must get quiet. I spend a lot of time in nature; God’s natural tranquilizer. Talking to God quiets my soul. Refraining from getting too involved with other people during my high anxiety times helps to quiet things around me. I interact the least amount that I have to with people. Working in my office with ear plugs in and my door closed, quiets the anxiety during these sensitive times. I put on my non-award-winning actress body language that usually lets me down which only makes matters worse. But I remind myself that I am smart, capable, honest, kind, good with people and talented AND venerable which is OK. And if that doesn’t work, I go find a Brene’ Brown TED talk to listen to.

The most important things I must remind myself during times of high anxiety is:

(1) I will eventually get through this.
(2) Other people don’t own your emotions – you do, so don’t let their weaknesses affect you.
(3) Look around in your tool box and if you can’t find the right tool – borrow one.
(4) Find a trusted friend, mentor or role model and be honest – ALWAYS be honest – talking things out, with someone you trust, can get you through and is priceless – also a great tool in your box.
(5) Don’t get caught up in the drama game or the blame someone else habit – deal with it – OWN it.

As long as you own your faults, recognize your own worth, realize your overwhelming anxiety is temporary, and find your direction in your quiet no matter how long it takes – you are winning against AD. You are perfect because God created you. Anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of – unless you are not, deep down inside, trying to manage it.
God grant me the serenity……………………………………………Many years, my friend, many years.