Anxiety…butterflies in the stomach…sweaty palms…the “what if”
thoughts…feeling jumpy and nervous…can’t catch my breath…
Anxiety is an emotion I have felt in recent months. I felt anxious to
start a new job, thinking “what if I don’t get any new clients?”,
“what if things don’t work out?”, “what if this?”, and “what if
that?”. When the what if questions take over, we might feel anxious.
Anxiety can be mild or it can be severe, or it might be somewhere
in the middle. Usually mild anxiety is easier to handle than when it
is severe. No matter how intense the feelings are, when it becomes a
daily thing and begins to interfere with relationships, work or home
respsonsibilities, or the tasks of daily life, it might be a signal
that it is time to seek help.
Anxiety, like other emotions, is there to communicate something to
us about how we react to the environment. It is a normal response to
things like job interviews, first days at school, having a difficult
conversation, moving away from home, getting married, losing a loved
one, or trying something new. It can give us an energy boost when we
might need to escape saber tooth tigers or avoid an accident.
For some, though, anxiety is that constant voice in the back of the
head asking all those “what if” or “why” questions or saying “if
only…”. What seems like problem solving or figuring out an answer
is sometimes worry. Spinning out all the possible outcomes so that
we can be prepared anything is not problem solving, it is worry.
What helps when we feel anxious?
Paying attention to physical sensations. Look for things like tense
shoulders or neck, clenched teeth, pacing, being fidgety, and shallow
breathing. Notice them without judging the sensations or yourself for
Deep breathing. Engaging the diaphragm and using the entire lung can
decrease feeling anxious and keyed up.
Learning to recognize what we can and cannot control and how not to
worry about those things beyond our control. Using self-talk, i.e.,
what we say to ourselves about thoughts, feelings, behaviors,
situations, to manage more our stressors effectively.
Exercising is a great way to decrease stress and anxiety. Go for a
walk in a park. Go to the gym and workout. Walk around the block with
the kids or dogs or a friend. Stretch. Swim. Jump rope. Dance. Vacuum.
Play a game with the kids.
Helping others takes our mind off our problems and worries. Volunteer
at a school, hospital, pet shelter, or nursing home. Offer to babysit
the grandkids or a niece or nephew to give their parents a break.
Learning to live mindfully by focusing on one thing at a time, being
aware of the moment as it unfolds without judging it or ourselves.
Engaging in healthy self-care. This can cover many different things,
including taking care of our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual
needs: pray or meditate, get a massage, take a bubble bath, enjoy
nature, get a mani/pedi, spend time with positive people, laugh, watch
a funny movie, eat nutritious foods.
Author: Susan Job Vincenzo PCC