Learning how to live with anxiety can feel like having a wound that never properly heals. It can come and go as it pleases, and stay for as long as it likes without your consent. But even though anxiety might be a part of your DNA doesn’t mean you have to become a prisoner to your own body. Thankfully, you can find and incorporate healthy mechanisms into your daily routine to help you manage your anxiety from morning to night.
Granted, not every coping mechanism is considered healthy; it’s important to understand the difference. While some strategies can help you heal, others will only temporarily numb your emotions or have you avoid them altogether. “[Finding healthy ways to cope with anxiety] allows us to self-regulate in the short term without [having to avoid] dealing with our problems in the long run. Unhealthy coping strategies are things we do to avoid dealing with deeper issues that only causes our issues to be kicked down the road and to compound over time,” said clinical director and owner of My LA Therapy, Brooke Sprowl.
While it’s incredibly difficult to live with anxious thoughts, there are ways you can find the right healthy coping mechanisms to use for your lifestyle. Scroll below to check out clinical psychologist, Dr. Carla Marie Manly‘s tips on how to find the right ways to cope with your anxiety.
1. Schedule an appointment with a therapist
Going to therapy is one of the best ways to find healthy coping strategies. A therapist can analyze your anxiety and provide personalized tips and strategies for you to use when things begin to feel a little overwhelming. “[A] therapist can be far more objective than the person suffering from anxiety — also, more objective than their friends and family. This objectivity allows for a careful assessment of what would work best for the individual. A trained therapist can also help the anxiety sufferer learn to notice triggers that might create anxiety; this, in itself, allows for healthier and more effective coping strategies,” said Dr. Manly.
2. Find new coping mechanisms through trial and error
When therapy is just not an option, you can find new ways to cope by researching online and/or connecting with loved ones who also deal with anxiety to see what kinds of healthy tips are out there and test them out to see if a few will work for you. “In situations where therapy is not an option, healthy coping mechanisms can be learned in an aware ‘trial and error’ fashion. For example, taking a ‘time out’ can be a wonderful coping mechanism; if an individual begins to notice that anxiety is taking hold, it can be helpful to leave the situation and go outside. In many cases, having a breath of fresh air and freedom to move can be very helpful,” said Dr. Manly.
3. Keep note of what triggers your anxiety
“Begin to notice personal triggers of anxiety. If anxiety tends to surface in certain situations (e.g., when the boss sends an email or a friend is a no-show), it’s important to notice the triggers and strive to create healthy responses, such as deep breathing, taking a walk, meditating, or journaling,” said Dr. Manly.
Being mindful of your triggers will prep you for when you need to use a healthy coping mechanism to avoid your anxiety from spiraling. However, don’t worry if you haven’t figured out what your triggers are. Naturally, this will take time and a therapist can help with this. But once you figure out your emotional triggers, you can contemplate how they originated to tackle them one by one through the use of healthy coping mechanisms.
4. Remember what coping mechanisms worked in the past
Sometimes we come across healthy coping mechanisms randomly when we’re in the middle of dealing with stress. Whether you realized taking CBD, talking to a loved one, or simply shifting your focus to something more positive in social situations helped, you can use these moments as references to find more healthy coping strategies. For instance, Dr. Manly said, “it can be helpful to create coping strategies, such as limiting your time at the event, taking a soothing essential oil with you, or taking soothing ‘pocket rock’ to rub when anxiety rises.”
An easy way to do this is by keeping an anxiety journal handy. Take note of the coping strategies that have worked so you can keep track and reference when future anxiety attacks occur.
5. Remember to be patient and kind with yourself
At the end of it all, it takes time to learn how to manage your anxiety. While you might get frustrated in the moment, especially when a coping mechanism doesn’t work the way you want to, you don’t want to criticize yourself. Everyone is different, and while one trick might work for one person, it might not work for someone else — and that’s OK!
“It’s important to be patient as you strive to find out what works and does not work. Strive to avoid blaming yourself or being judgmental if a certain strategy does not work. YOU are a unique person, and it may take a bit of time to find the ideal ‘blend’ of coping strategies that feel right for you,” said Dr. Manly.