We all struggle with anxiety from time to time when faced with challenging situations, terrible experiences, or just feelings of being overwhelmed with all the things that we need and want to do in life. There is no one size fits all when it comes to experiencing anxiety. We are unique, and our experiences will vary.
The feelings of anxiety can come from anything. It can be anything from public speaking or not doing well in school to someone having a flashback from a traumatic experience. Having anxiety is not a bad thing; there is nothing alien about it. We all experience it, but some anxiety may be persistent for some people where it needs to be managed daily.
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WHAT IS ANXIETY
IS ANXIETY THE SAME THING AS WORRYING?
When we worry, our thoughts are caused by realistic or specific concerns we can resolve by problem-solving. Once the problem is identified, and a solution is in sight, you will likely move on from this thought and diminish worry. Worry is what happens when your mind focuses on negative thoughts or uncertain outcomes. The thoughts are repetitive and obsessive, but they only occur in your mind, not in your body.
When we are experiencing anxiety, our thoughts can be irrational or vague. They can last for long periods, and can negatively impact our lives. As a result, you may experience fear or other emotions that will cause your body to react negatively. Anxiety has a brain element (worry) with a physiological element (stress), which means that we experience anxiety in our minds and bodies.
Worry and anxiety affect our bodies in different ways. Worrying tends to be temporary, making the effects minimal because you may only experience short-term emotional distress or tension. But the physical reactions caused by anxiety can be more intense.
Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, but if some people are frequently having intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations, it may be because of an underlying mental health condition of anxiety disorders. Such disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear. These feelings interfere with normal daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger, and can persist for months/years.
Anxiety disorders or just experiencing high levels of anxiety aren’t developed or caused by a single factor but a combination of things. Several other factors play a role, including:
- Stress due to an illness/medical condition
- Piling on of stress
- Drugs or alcohol
- Other family members who suffer from mental illness
- Physical health.
Symptoms of anxiety will differ for everyone. Someone’s experience may not necessarily be the same thing that you experience because our body and mind respond to stress differently. However, there are a few common signs of anxiety that you can look out for:
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Sweating, Trembling
- Feeling weak or tired
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU NEED HELP?
WHAT IS GROUNDING
Grounding is known to be an effective way to calm your anxiety. It is a practice that can help you pull away from flashbacks, unwanted memories, and negative emotions. You are bringing your focus to what is happening to you physically and what is happening around you.
Using Ground techniques is not just for people with anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions like PTSD, panic disorder, or depression. It is an excellent tool for anyone who is feeling stress, anxious, or overwhelmed. This is because you are getting out of your head and focusing all your energy into the present moment. You are intentionally trying to center yourself by bringing awareness back to your body.
6 GROUNDING TECHNIQUES TO USE WHEN YOU EXPERIENCE ANXIETY
This technique is all about focusing on your five senses and paying close attention to details around you. Focusing on all your senses can help force you back into the present.It starts with sitting comfortably in a chair. Close your eyes and take 3-4 deep breaths. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Open your eyes and name out loud:
5 – things you can see
4 – things you can feel
3 – things you can hear
2 – things you can smell
1 – thing you can taste
This technique helps quiet the distractions around you that may be causing you to feel overwhelmed and stressed. It helps to refocus you through breathing:
- Sit comfortably with your feet flat and back straight.
- Inhale slowly through your nose while you count to four. Don’t rush. Focus on the air coming into your body.
- Before you exhale, hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth, and as you breathe out for a count of eight. Focus on the air leaving your body.
- Repeat four more times.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (my favorite!)
This technique not only helps to reduce anxiety in the mind, but it helps to release muscle tension that comes with anxiety. When you are intense situations, or you are stress/overwhelmed, your muscles often tense up without you realizing it. Progressive Muscle Relaxation will help your body and your mind to relax:
- Pick a muscle group to start with.
- Start from either the top or bottom of your body and progress through.
- Close your eyes.
- Tense that muscle group for 5-10 seconds and then release.
- Work your way up and down your body until you have finished.
- Slowly open your eyes.
- Repeat as many times as you want (once usually does the trick for me).
Positive Self-Talk/affirmations (My Go-To for when I am feeling stuck)
Affirmations are positive statements that challenge you to overcome negative thoughts.
Say affirmations such as:
- “I am safe during this moment.”
- “This feeling will not last forever.”
- “ I am breathing in relaxation and letting go of tension.”
- “I have the ability to overcome this.”
- “I am now in control.”
- “My anxiety is making me feel uncomfortable, but I am in charge of my body and mind.”
Repeat your affirmations, believes in them, and embrace the positive feeling that is coming.
Get the body moving
Sometimes if your anxiety is at an all times high, it may hard to concentrate on doing a grounding technique that requires all your focus. Your body is just too pumped and full of energy.If this is the case, try dancing, running, jogging, skipping, jumping, or cleaning (cleaning helps to center me when I am feeling overwhelmed) to distract you enough to get you out of your head and center you on something in the present moment. This is a good jump start to helping you relax your mind and body. When you do this, the following happens:
- Your mood improves.
- You increase your self-confidence.
- Your muscles will relax.
- The negative thoughts start to fade.
With this technique, you distract your mind to stop thinking about what is causing you to worry and focus it on something that isn’t emotionally driven. These mental distractions help redirect your thoughts away from distressing feelings and bring it back to the present:
- Play a memory game
- Count backward
- Pamper yourself
- Work on some math
- Look at something funny
- Try arts & craft
- Do some journaling
WHY GROUNDING HELPS
Doing Grounding techniques interrupts the flow of your negative thoughts and allows you to find peace. It helps you focus so intently, that your mind does not have the opportunity to wonder or worry about anything further.
We experience so many uncertainties in life that sometimes it is hard not to worry in anticipation of something that may or may not happen. When my father first suffered a stroke, the first few months, I was overwhelmed with negative thoughts that had me persistently worrying. I was on the verge of experiencing a nervous breakdown as well. My eating habits were all over the place, I didn’t want to get out of bed, I was behind in my work, and just felt lost and broken.
But just taking a moment to pause and listened to my body (ground myself) was what I needed to start making a turning around. Some days can still be emotionally overwhelming me, but I try to truly make a conscious effort to put my best foot forward and embrace all the positivity that life has to offer.
Grounding helps you release negativity while you clear your mind, recharge your energy and calm your emotions. You build your strength as you become one with your mind and body.
American Psychological Association. (2020). Anxiety. https://dictionary.apa.org/anxiety
Mayo Clinic. (2018). Anxiety Disorders. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961#:~:text=Having%20a%20health%20condition%20or,or%20ongoing%20worry%20about%20finances.