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Managing Your Anxiety

April 29, 2021 | By Jennifer Leong, MSW, RSW

Anxiety and stress can feel overwhelming when too much is happening too quickly. Please click here to better understand how anxiety is maintained and perpetuated.

Managing your anxiety can be more effective when you put these skills into practice regularly, even when things are good so that you are better able to use your tools when things don’t go so well. Key here is consistency.


Learning to Tolerate Uncertainty

The nature of life is such that it is unpredictable, and we can never see what our future holds. This is an unavoidable part of life – scary, I know! The key to being more tolerant is to start acting “as if” you are tolerant of uncertainty; easier said than done! It’s about putting yourself in situations where you force yourself to tolerate the unknown. The more you do something and expose yourself to certain situations, the more you learn something new about yourself and that the situation isn’t too bad. Life will not go accordingly as planned if you allow some uncertainty into your life, but this is not an indication of failure – far from it. In fact, practicing tolerating uncertainty allows us to learn that even when things do not go as planned, and something bad happens, that we can cope with it and we can deal with things even if they don’t go perfectly.

Radical Acceptance

“What you resist, persists.” This idea tells us that when we struggle and push away what is happening to us that we find terrible, it makes the problem worse. Radical acceptance teaches us simply to accept and acknowledge our reality, without judgement. It’s an attitude of “it is, what it is.” Radical acceptance does NOT mean that you approve of what is happening and that you have to like it. Acceptance is not waving our hands up in defeat and giving up. Instead, acceptance allows us to focus our energy and strength on how to move forward and what we need to do to handle our situation better. It teaches us to accept the anxiety and work through those feelings rather than avoiding it or fighting it. Oddly enough, accepting our anxiety often leads to decreased anxiety.

You Always Have a Choice

Anxiety is the culmination of your beliefs around overestimating risks and underestimating your resources to cope. Risk of anxiety increases when someone believes their probability and severity of risk/threat is high and they do not have the internal or external resources to cope. When we believe we don’t have a choice in our situation this makes us feel stuck and helpless. The truth is, people are resilient and are very capable of coping with difficult situations. Find ways to remind yourself that you can cope and that you have the internal and external resources to help you manage difficult situations.

STOPP Technique

STOPP is a mindfulness-based technique that is used in different models of therapy. It that can be useful in reducing stress, anxiety or distressing emotions. Being able to pause, slow down and come back to the present has proven helpful in dealing with stress and anxiety.

S – Stop

Stop what you are doing when you become aware of your automatic negative thoughts or caught up in rumination or noticing your anxiety setting in.

T – Take a breath

Taking a deep breath and notice your breathing. Breathe in through the nose, expanding your belly and breathe out through your mouth. Do this until you feel calmer and have collected yourself.

O – Observe

Once you feel calm and collected, spend some time observing different aspects of yourself. Observing yourself enhances your self-awareness and mindfulness over time.

Thoughts – What am I thinking right now? What’s on my mind? What am I telling myself?

Feelings – What am I feeling? What emotions are coming up?

Bodily Sensations – What physical sensations am I feeling? Where in my body do I experience it?

Behaviours – How am I acting and reacting? What am I doing?

P – Perspective/Pull Back

Bringing in some perspective will allow us to see the situation differently and help us see the bigger picture. We don’t have to believe every thought that pops up. How else can I see this situation? What is another way of looking at this problem? Fact or opinion? What would someone I trust say to me right now? What would I say to them? What are some reasonable explanations for what’s happening?

P – Plan and Proceed

Proceeding with more awareness and being mindful with how you want to respond.

What are my options? What is the most important thing for me? What is the most appropriate and effective course of action? What are some of the things I can do that aligns with my principles/values/beliefs? What are the consequences of my action?

Taking it moment by moment, one step at a time.

Extra “P” in the STOPP technique

P – Practice

It is a simple skill to use but it does take some practice – practice makes progress. Just like a habit, the more you do something, the more engrained it will be. The best time to practice this is when you are not feeling anxious or overwhelmed and in a calm state. This will allow you to access the skills quicker when you experience intense emotions. Key is consistency and practicing daily even on your good days.

Seeking Help

If you are someone who is suffering from anxiety and going through a lot of stress, major life transitions, experiencing a loss and/or struggling with mental health concerns, please reach out for help from a mental health professional.

It is a sign of strength, not weakness, when we admit that we are stuck and suffering. Everyone – including yourself – deserves to live a meaningful and peaceful life.

To connect with Jennifer please book a free meet and greet, before getting started on your therapy journey.

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