Coping with Anxiety
Anxiety and stress are a part of life – but they don’t have to take over your life.
Self-management on a variety of levels is key.
Cognitive: Face your fears with constructive self-talk
Behavioural: Devise and stick to an effective study programme – which also includes time for recreational and physical needs
Emotional: Contain your fears through more insight and foresight: use appropriate self-monitoring, distraction and relaxation strategies
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioural components. It is the displeasing feeling of fear and concern.
Although worry, fear and anxiety are unpleasant, they can all be helpful:
psychologically – they keep us alert and give us the ‘get up and go’ to deal with problems
physically – they make our body ready for action – to run away from danger or to attack it – the ‘fight or flight’ response.
These feelings become a problem when they are too strong or when they carry on even when we don’t need them anymore. They can make you uncomfortable, stop you from doing the things you want to – and can generally make life difficult to cope with.
Anxiety is very common and many people find ways of overcoming it or coping with it without seeking professional help. However, for some people anxiety can be harmful, it can affect your physical health, or your fears can take over your life and stop you doing the things you want to do. The good news is that there are things you can do to help.
1) Identify trigger factors
The first step in managing anxiety is to identify the specific situations that are making you stressed or anxious and when you are having trouble coping. One way to do this is to keep a diary of symptoms and what is happening when anxiety occurs. It is also helpful to identify any worrying thoughts as this can lead to finding ways to solve the specific problem that is of concern.
2) Thought management
Thought management exercises are useful when a person is troubled by ongoing or recurring distressing thoughts. There are a range of thought management techniques. For example, you can use distraction with pleasant thoughts. This can help take attention away from unpleasant thoughts. Alternatively, one can learn ‘mindfulness techniques’ to direct attention away from negative thinking and treat thoughts as just thoughts and not facts. The choice of thought management technique will depend on the type of anxiety problem. A psychologist can help you decide on thought management strategies that are likely to be most helpful.
3) Talk about it.
Try a friend or relative who you trust and respect, and who is a good listener.
4) Learning to relax.
People who feel anxious most of the time report that they have trouble relaxing. Knowing how to release muscle tension is an important anxiety treatment. Learning a relaxation technique and practising it regularly can help a person to maintain a manageable level of anxiety. You can learn these through groups, with professionals, but there are several books and self-help materials you can use to teach yourself. It’s a good idea to practice relaxation regularly, not just at times of crisis.