Anxiety has become pandemic in modern society. I see it in my psychotherapy clients and in my students. The stressors of every day living have overwhelmed our coping mechanisms and if we want to be healthy, we all need more tools for not just dealing with the anxiety but for building resilience too.
Here are 5 of my favourite ways to help build resilience and soothe anxiety.
1. Find Places Of Support In Your Life
Things generally feel worse when we feel isolated and anxiety can often make it feel harder to feel connected and grounded. Making a conscious effort to find places of connection and support can make a big difference.
Who are the people you feel comfortable talking to? A friend? A partner? A therapist? Having someone you trust or somewhere safe to talk about what you are feeling helps you not just calm down but also to process where the feelings are coming from. Having someone validate our feelings is a powerful healing mechanism.
Where are the places you can go to feel grounded and calm? The park? A beach? A loved one’s house?
What are the activities that you can do that help you connect to your body and feel calmer? Exercise? Recreational activities? Baking? Meditating? Woodworking? Knitting?
Building these moments of connection and support into your daily life can help not only build resilience, but also provide a safe place to turn when you are feeling anxious.
2. Check In With How You Are Feeling In Your Body
Anxiety brings us up into our minds and our bodies are often experiencing a myriad of symptoms as a consequence. Bringing your attention down into your body allows you to reground and slow down. Coming back from your head’s race to oblivion and returning to your heart’s knowing can make all the difference. An exercise like doing a body sweep is an approachable way to practice this.
3. Get Curious About Where The Anxious Feelings Came From
Anxiety is a survival response. When we feel threatened (by actual or perceived threats be they physical or psychological) our fight, flight, freeze response gets triggered and we will often feel anxious.
When we are able to get compassionately curious about where the feelings come from, we are able to be aware of what is happening behind the scenes of our feelings. This does two things. First, we are sometimes able to see that we are interpreting the current moment according to what we concluded from past moments, when in fact this moment may be something else entirely. This frees us up to experience this moment differently. Secondly, becoming aware of the beliefs that are driving the feelings allows us to change the beliefs that are no longer serving us so that future moments will be interpreted through a different lens.
You can put this curiosity into practice by asking yourself questions such as:
- When have I felt this way before?
- When was the first time I felt this way?
- What is the story behind this feeling?
- What are the roots of this feeling?
- What is this feeling trying to tell me?
- What is this feeling trying to protect me from?
You’ll have to find the questions that work for you (and they may be different in different moments). They key is to be open and compassionate towards yourself and whatever the answers are as you ask yourself these questions. Welcome the information even if you don’t like what you see.
4. Learn To Be Okay With The Unknown
So often we feel anxious because we are anticipating future outcomes. Allowing yourself the space to say, “I won’t know how this will turn out so I am going to hold space for my discomfort around not knowing” gives you the permission to not have to figure it out. We think that if we anticipate the potentially negative outcomes that somehow they will hurt less, but we end up causing ourselves a lot of hurt along the way.
5. Look For The Undercurrents That Cause You Anxiety
Especially in a world that moves as quickly as the one in which we are all living, it is easy for there to be things that have become so normalized that it’s easy to forget they are there. Taking the time to notice what might be happening under the surface of most moments, but that isn’t top of your mind, can help reduce anxiety and boost resilience.
For many people politics, climate change, mass shootings (at least here in the trigger happy US), uncertainties about the effects of technology, global crisis, the state of your health etc. are things that may not be explicitly on your mind but may be adding to your anxiety. Identifying them as players and noticing when they pop up can go a long way to easing your day to day anxiety.
6. Some Extra Help
I know I said 5 things, but I also know you probably came to this article looking for more tangible suggestions so I thought I’d throw a bone your way and offer you a 6thpoint with a list of those too:
- Walk or stand outside barefoot.
- Find a hug buddy and hug them until you feel the release of Oxytocin (experts can’t seem to agree about how long it takes but I say you’ll feel it when it happens).
- Meditate – I prefer Yoga Nidra myself.
- Take hot Epsom salt baths (adding essential oils like lavender or copaiba is extra helpful).
- Drink herbal tea – the herbs are helpful but so is the act of holding and consuming a cup full of warmth.
What ever you choose to do, know that anxiety is a feeling and feelings aren’t forever. Mostly likely, you’re stronger than you think. You can weather these storms. Take a breath, let the anxiety speak to you when it is ready, release it. This too shall pass.
Grace Porter, MA is a psychotherapist and the Co-Founder of The Seven Tools, a personal growth and transformation company. She teaches an innovative approach to healing through the blog, summits, and classes on stress prevention, emotionally healthy parenting, and more.