Some Quick Ways to Practice Stress/Anxiety Management

While some people are 'wired' to be more anxious than others biologically, everyone can practice these anxiety reduction techniques. 

1. ENVISION MENTAL MAPS TO A POSITIVE OUTCOME

When anticipating a perceived anxious situation,  envisioning a negative outcome just drives anxiety up.  Probably more than not, when anxious, this is what happens.  Cognitively practice developing a mental map that leads to a positive outcome.  Secondly, develop alternative maps that also lead to a positive outcome, but may mean having to go around some roadblocks.  This means trying to anticipate ahead what roadblocks or negative triggers that may come up and how you would get around these to lessen the fear of surprise.  

2.  UTILIZE KNOWN STRENGTHS AND PREVIOUS POSTIVE OUTCOMES

Instead of focusing on the potential for failure, utilize past successes or previous positive outcomes to reinforce the truth that you can meet the challenge.  Go to your positive internalized parental voice that focuses on how you have been able to overcome anxious situations in the past, how you did that and how the anxiety anticipation was worse than the outcome.  If you can't think of past successes, ask a friend who may more readily see the real you and what you can achieve, not your internal anxious view.

3.  EMBRACE THE CHALLENGE

Challenges are anxious by fact because it is something more than what you have previously accomplished or in your comfort zone.  Anxiety is about fear of the unknown, the fight or flight autonomic response.  A good challenge that you take on can be invigorating and take you to a higher level of self-awareness and self-esteem.  A challenge can be even more rewarding if the circumstances are not so easy.   

4.  SELF CALMING

Anxiety is driven by the brain.  It can be an instantaneous spike in your normal physiology triggered by a mental thought.  This is particularly true of anger management, the quick zero to sixty emotional response.  Part of self-calming is knowing what triggers your anxiety so you have self-awareness.  Memory responses, conscious or unconscious that trigger anxiety can be hard to shift, but the more self awareness you have of the patterns of stimulus and response, the more you can learn to change the reaction, that will eventually lessen the automatic anxiety response.  The more your internalized parental voice can say it really isn't so scary, the less fearful your scared child responses will be.  Yoga, relaxation exercises, using mantras, breathing and physical exercise can all help increase your ability to self-calm before the storm.  With a good umbrella, the rain is not so bad.  Jim Harris, LCSW, CAADC