3 Tips for Dealing with Stress When Anxiety Overwhelms You

I’ve heard that anxiety doesn’t come so much from thinking about the future as trying to control it. With that in mind, it’s hard to tell yourself, “I can’t control the future” when you just want/need to… control the future. And even if you can focus on living in the present… well there’s still worrying about the future because humans worry. So how do we change this?

 

Let’s start by recognizing the issue.

STRESS.

A small word (6 letters, and 3 are the same!) for a HUGE, often destructive phenomenon. It gets even worse if you have real anxiety (only 7 letters), OCD (just 3 letters), or are otherwise struggling, like so many of us.

How do we overcome it? How do we manage life when we’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and altogether non-functional?

 

Well, for starters, we can’t. Stress exists. Life can be stressful.

 

Stress is real and overwhelming.

Stress is real and overwhelming.

 

But we CAN cope with stressful times and care for our mental health, and here are 3 ways to help you do so.

 

First, we need to understand the power we have over our experiences. If you’ve never heard how you can change your brain patterns by yourself, read this short post about self-talk and then come back.

 

Back so soon? Here we go.

1. NORMALIZATION

This idea is exactly what is sounds like, and if you use self-talk to practice it, it works.

 

Normalize the stress. Pretend it’s just like it’s meant to be. Accept it as reality. Look around at the many people who are experiencing stress, and if you don’t believe it, turn on the news. Anyone in the news – for good or bad – is feeling stressed. Can you imagine hundreds of millions of people reading your every tweet (I know, it doesn’t seem to bother everyone…) or pointing out your every wrinkle? It’s not that you necessarily have less stress than these folks, but if you can accept that stress is part of caring about life, then you can have less anxiety about it.

 

Tell yourself: “What I am going through is normal… This is the way it is… There are lots of people experiencing ____ just like me… This may be rough but it’s not crazy… This is okay… This isn’t anything more than it is… I will not dramatize my situation or predict a forever downward future… This is not the end of everything…”

 

Tell yourself that it is what it is.

Tell yourself that it is what it is.

 

The point is – this isn’t a big deal. It’s exactly what it is and no more.

 

No, this doesn’t take away the cause of stress, but it does minimize the dramatization around it, which is often the root of our overwhelmedness.

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PASSION

Working hard for something we don't care about is called Stress. Working hard for something we love is called Passion.

Working hard for something we don’t care about is called Stress. Working hard for something we love is called Passion.

 

Yeah, that’s right. Positive Attitude.

Really? No, not really. Sure, a positive attitude helps, but it isn’t that simple. You need to find a way to enjoy what you’re doing, even if you hate it.

 

So if taking care of finances is giving you a meltdown, maybe focusing on being in control might make you happy. Also, you can steal from the rainy day envelope and you’d be the only one to know.

If you have a to-do list that’s 30 miles long, turn on the music and make a song about it. Then tear it in half, then again in half, and put the three-quarters pieces under your mattress. When you flip the mattress next, you’ll look at them again.

Love that so many people depend on you because you must be so capable… Remind yourself of how awesome you are.

Find the 2 things on the list you’re happy to do and make them the central part of your day.

Invite a friend to come along and make it an outing.

Ask a neighborhood kid who’s dying for a slurpee to run an errand in exchange for a few bucks. Enjoy the delight on his face when he’s done.

Have fun bossing people around BECAUSE YOU’RE STRESSED! If they have a problem with that, let them take you over.

Make a to-do list – it helps us feel accomplished when we cross things off – and keep looking at what was done. You might want to keep the same list for many, many days if needed.

 

 

Through it all – find the humor, find your passion.

After all, the pessimist may be right, but it is the optimist who will enjoy the ride.

 

GROUNDING

Hold onto something solid until you've crossed over the pain.

Hold onto something solid until you’ve crossed over the pain.

Sometimes things get tough.

Really tough.

And you can’t always handle it.

Grounding can help. (This is not the 5-4-3-2-1 method for a panic attack, which I’ll feature another time.)

Here’s how it works:

Focus on something that will not change based on your source of stress. Something that won’t go away, even if your current nightmare is real.

Think about the people you love such as siblings, roommates, partners, children – or pets. They’re going to be there when you come home, even if you didn’t get the job or couldn’t find that dress for next week’s wedding.

Touch the tree in your front yard. Barring a real tornado, it should be there, just the same.

Save the newest episode of your favorite show- or binge watch the entire season…

Whatever your choice, make something your anchor so no matter how hysterical your heartbeat feels, no matter how puffy your eyes get, no matter how endless pain seems, you know something solid will stay.

If nothing outside you will help, turn inward. YOU will still be YOU. Write down your good qualities and keep in mind that unlike math, your negatives don’t cancel out your positives. So if you’ve got pretty eyes, whip up awesome chocolate cookies, or really know how to listen, make note of it. When you look into the mirror and there’s a Post-it next to that says “You are a good friend”, it can help bring you out of the circle of anxiety and into the reality of life being full of stress and calm, good and bad, mixed together.

 

THAT’S ALL

 

Three tips for your emotional sanity is all I’ve got, folks. Of course, if you’re experiencing a panic attack, or are in any kind of crisis, you don’t need to suffer alone. See these tips for what to do when you feel alone, and check out this list of resources, both for times of crisis and general community and support.

 

Comment below with your feedback, or contact me directly.

 

 

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