Hello, dear souls. I hope you’re having a week filled with whatever you need. Whether you’re needing some rest and getting some downtime or are moving quickly and basking in the enjoyment of accomplishment, I hope it’s refilling your cup and you’re working to find gratitude for the opportunity.
Today I wanted to talk about more ways to battle anxiety because it’s something that comes up so often in therapy but I thought I’d add a little twist- today’s tips are from my clients who are fighting their way through anxiety. Therapy is really a two-way street. It’s about a professional relationship in which we work together to determine how best to meet your goals. While therapists go to school for at least a master’s degree, we learn from our clients all the time. We talked last week about empathy and how we can extrapolate how someone might be feeling based on our experiences of emotion, but we also store away what we hear from our clients when they describe their experience. Sometimes I get tips for coping with anxiety from the clients I see who are working their own way through it. Here are some of my favorites:
What’s the worst that can happen?
Planning for the worst or acknowledging that the worst case scenario either a) isn’t very likely or b) wouldn’t be earth-shattering can be helpful. Many times we find that deep down what we’re really afraid of is feeling like we aren’t enough. It may sound like this “well if I let that happen people would see me as a bad mom”. If you can break it down to that point, congratulations! You’re getting to your core beliefs. If you believe that you have to be perfect to be loveable, for example, you’re setting yourself up for failure and we can choose to change that belief.
Is that a reasonable fear?
This one can be really tricky. Anxiety convinces us sometimes that any fear is reasonable because it could happen. Sometimes I have my clients present the case for likelihood of a scary event like a lawyer. If a lawyer had to convince a judge that this is likely to happen and couldn’t rely on “it feels scary” as evidence, how far would the case go?
How can I distract myself?
Ya’ll are seriously the best at this sometimes. Watching the office, playing with pets, cooking, reading, and finding hilarious YouTube clips are some of my favorite ideas. When the reason you’re anxious isn’t something that you can do anything about (say someone you love is in the hospital and you’re just waiting to hear more about how they’re doing or you had a big fight with a friend but now they’re asleep and you’re up recounting every detail) at that moment, your best bet is to try to relax so you can come back clear-headed when you take action. Think about something that takes up a significant amount of your focus, makes you happy, or calms you down. The idea here is to engage your mind so that it’s not running amok thinking of all the things that could go wrong and how disastrous that would be.
Imagine all of your worries at the edge of a cliff and then imagine pushing them right over the edge.
I love watching my cats be goofballs. And they are so satisfied with themselves when they push something off the edge of a table or dresser. It’s like gravity is new to them each time they discover it exists. There’s something satisfying about dropping heavy things. One of my brilliant co-workers will sometimes have clients carry a backpack full of stones around. When she tells them to take it off and unload some of the stones, they have things like “shame”, “self-doubt”, “body image issues” written on them. Those things are heavy to carry! So are your worries! This particular idea came from a client when asked how well she sleeps. She said that this is how she lays down the worries of the day so she can rest. I think it’s genius. Give ’em a shove, they’ll still be there when you can do something about them.
Take a rest.
I have a few clients who know their moods well enough to know that sometimes they need to hit the “reset” button and take a nap. When they wake up, they often feel lighter. They’re able to recognize that the things that felt life-or-death are no longer unsolvable crises.
Call on supports.
Some of my clients are very blessed in that they have friends or family members who know what to say to help bring your wise mind back into the game when your emotional mind is working overtime. If you have supports that you really trust, you can make a coping plan with them by writing down general statements that they can use to help you out when you’re not on your a-game. These might include things like “you’ve survived 100% of your worst days” or “that sucks and I’m sorry but I know you can handle it. You’re super strong even when you don’t feel like it”. If you don’t have those connections, never fear! You can make your own list. Write down anything that’s been inspiring to you (look for quotes, maybe, or visit this page) and look back on it for advice from your healthy self when you’re not feeling quite so well.
I hope this helps, friends. Don’t forget to also try things like tapping (search YouTube for EFT Tapping) and deep breathing as well. Until next time, be well!
Kayla Valley is a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) who works at the Highland location of Perspectives Therapy Services. She became a therapist to help people struggle with the depression and anxiety that she understands intimately. She loves being a Michigander and is an avid sewist who loves spending time with her cats and sugar gliders.
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland and Fenton, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Additionally, we offer psychiatric care in the form of evaluations and medication management. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.