I recently had the honor and privilege of talking to psychologist Rachel Hagerty. She was welcoming and open to sharing her professional information about anxiety and coping mechanisms.
Thank you so much, Rachel for helping me with this post! Know you aren’t alone. If you know someone who is experiencing anxiety, pass on this blog post
Disclaimer: I approached Rachel via Instagram for a psychologist thoughts on anxiety and how to cope with it. My purpose of this blog post is to make it a safe place for anxiety sufferers to feel a sense of comfort and have coping devices to come back to any time when facing the challenges of anxiety.
All information provided for this blog post is from a limited licensed psychologist and from myself who has no psychology qualifications but having first-hand experience what anxiety is like.
I’m not affiliated with Rachel nor do I get any compensation for having her be on my blog. All pictures on this blog post were from Canva.com (except the picture of Rachel was found on her Instagram account)
Ladies and gentlemen, boys, girls and everyone in between without further ado I bring to you the lovely Rachel!
Rachel: I was asked to contribute a piece about anxiety to this blog, and I was more than happy to do so. I a psychologist and an educator I love sharing knowledge with others, especially if they can learn something or experience positive change because of it.
Before I jump in, let me share you with a little about myself. I am a limited license psychologist practicing in Rochester Hills and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I have been in practice nearly 10 years and work a variety of clients, specializing in adolescents and young women who are experiencing anxiety, depression, life changes, disordered eating, self-esteem issues, or just extra support.
I strongly believe that anyone can benefit from extra support system in their life and that personal growth is always possible.
So, now that you know a little about me, let’s just run into the topic I was asked about: How to cope with anxiety. A little background about anxiety: according to the National Institue of Mental Health website, ”anxiety disorders affects 18.1% of the adult US population with the average age of onset at 11 years old.
However, the questions I am always getting is how do we begin to manage it. Here are some simple strategies you can implement that can help to manage your stress/or anxiety. Although all of these can be done at home, I also use them with my clients in my professional practice.
1: Breathing: Yes, breathing. Something as simple as breathing can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s called Diaphragmatic Breathing (or deep belly breathing).
It goes like this: Take a huge breath in through your nose, hold briefly, and exhale, through pursed lips (like you’re blowing out a candle). Utilizing this breathing technique when feeling overwhelmed will turn focus to your breathing and away from the stressor to help decrease anxiety.
The best part, the more you do it the better you get and the more natural it becomes. The Cleveland Clinic Website has some great instructions to reference as well.
2. Progressive muscle relaxation: Essentially, it’s focusing on tensing and relaxing all muscle groups in the body. It’s especially helpful when you’re feeling panicky when you aren’t able to settle your mind, or just can’t fall asleep.
It can be read to you from a script, or you can listen to an audio version. Best part, it only takes about 15 minutes. The internet is a great source for free audio downloads; Dartmouth College has a great audio on their Student Wellness web page for this technique.
3. Positive self-talk: More often than not we are our own worst critics and the negative voice in our head is louder than the positive one. But we need to reverse that and become our own cheerleader. Replace the negative with the positive, there is nothing wrong with patting yourself on the back. Praise yourself, acknowledge when you are proud of yourself, compliment yourself. Be kind to yourself.
4. Triggers: Become cognoscente of your triggers. Layman’s term: Figure out what thing/things tend to increase your anxiety. Once you are able to put your finger on what ”triggers” you, you can be more prepared to handle it.
5. Self-care: When was the last time you did something that was fun and energizing to you? If you’re not sure, then it’s been too long. As people, we need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else. Anything from listening to music, watching a movie, catching up with friends, taking a bath, reading a book, exercising, or even taking a nap. You can’t expect a car to run on an empty gas tank.
6. Balance: Life is like a teeter-totter, there has to be a balance or everything is uneven. It’s important not to spread yourself too thin.
7. Set realistic goals: Key word is realistic. If your To Do list has 25 items to complete by end of the day and you know it’s impossible, set a more realistic goal. Decide what has to be done and what can wait to be done.
8. Meditation: Don’t be overwhelmed by this. Meditation can be done for as little as 10 minutes a day and be impactful. The best part….there’s an app for it! One of my favorites is Headspace, and it’s free!
All of these strategies can be helpful, and everyone is going to find that they work differently for them. But I have one last tip.
9. If the anxiety, stress, or depression has become too overwhelming or you just need a little more support: Ask for help. If you’re experiencing intense feelings of anxiety or stress to the point that it’s interfering with your life on a regular basis, reach out to someone who can help.
Talk to a loved one, a close friend, a health care provider, a personal mentor, or a licensed professional. **If you ever feel you are in a life threatening situation, please contact a medical professional**
Rachel asked me to include the footnoted information in the blog post as well (for publication purposes).
- National Institue Of Mental Health. (n.d). Any Anxiety Disorder Among Children. Retrieved from nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-adults.shtml
- Cleveland Clinic. (1995-2016). Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises & Techniques. Retrieved from my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/diaphragmatic-breathing
- Dartmouth College. (2011) Student Wellness Center: Relaxation Downloads. Retrieved from dartmouth.edu/~healthed/relax/downloads.html
I was initially going to end this blog post after giving the footnoted information, but I had this feeling of something was missing and that was sharing my information that works for me with my anxiety.
1. Be creative.
- Stress ball or squeezing toy.
Make sure it doesn’t make any noise to avoid unnecessary attention. Whenever you are going through anxiety then squeeze it. Having that be in your pockets and use it when needed.
- Create keywords.
Make an agreement with someone you fully trust to use keywords in reminding each other a happy place/activity that brings the best out of you.
Use that keyword whether that is verbal or via text as a reminder to help get you out of that anxiety you feel in the moment.
- Record a video or an audio of yourself or someone you can rely on telling your future self that everything will be okay etc. Watch that whenever your anxiety is high. Or have a quote, picture or anything you can feel a sense of comfort anytime you look at it.
Keeping active is not only great for the body, but for the mind too. Being active doesn’t always mean going to the gym.
If you are unable to go to the gym for whatever reason then practicing exercises at home can be an option too. Going for walks, a run or hike to clear your mind. The whole point is to get your body moving and release endorphins which reduce stress, pain and leaves you feeling better than you were before.
Any chess players reading this? Is chess considered a sport or a board game? Leave a comment to let me know. I’m curious because when I was in school, chess was on the list of options of what sport to play.
If you aren’t aware, World Alzheimer’s month is in September (the month I’m currently writing this blog post) It isn’t 100% certain, but since chess is very much a mind game it can help improve a person’s memory and help anxiety too.
When it comes to anxiety, your mind is constantly working over time and when you play chess it helps combat those thoughts into a more productive way. Chess is definitely an exercise for the brain.
4. Stay cool.
- What I found works for me over the years is holding a cold beverage (not alcohol because you don’t want to become reliant on it) Water or any beverage, but it must be cold. This is for someone who tends to blush easily especially around unfamiliar faces. Of course drinking it can help relieve any unnecessary build up warmness you feel.
5. Clean the house. If you are someone who lets their thoughts consume them before meeting someone new rather use that time in cleaning your space that you live in. You don’t need to go all Martha Stewart, but getting rid of things you no longer need, dusting or vacuum cleaning will get your mind focused on the task at hand and having the place you live in look presentable is another win too.
Don’t hold back your tips! If you have any advice for anxiety sufferers then feel free to leave a comment. Help by uplifting one another through your experiences with this.
Until next time!