Dealing with Stress & Anxiety

The coping skills you learn from this article will help you to learn to calm yourself down and to relax when you begin to feel anxious or stressed. While these coping skills are not a cure all, they can often times bring instant relief.

Reconditioning Response

In addition to lowering our level of stress, these coping skills, if practiced regularly, can recondition our response to our stressors. These new responses are often more relaxed and peaceful.

First, we need understand that over the course of many years, we have conditioned ourselves or trained ourselves to become anxious when stressful situations occur. If you run into a bear while you are out hiking, instantly your mind sends a signal to adrenaline gland. This logical fear gets your heart beating faster and you are physically ready to run or to fight. This is called the “fight or flight response” and is natural body function controlled by the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.

Similarly when encounter or have fears that are created in from within our mind, this will in turn create the “fight or flight response” same chain of chemical and biological events. When this happens over and over again your mind and body become conditioned to respond in a fight or fleeing way every time a particular stressor or fear becomes present. After many years of conditioning, we become conditioned to become anxious or stressed from certain “triggers.”

The good news is that even though we have become conditioned to respond to a certain “triggers,” we can be reconditioned to respond in a more relaxed and peaceful way.

Why Change?

The first main purpose for using a coping exercise is to get immediate relief from stress or anxiety. Using your coping skills can, bring immediate relief during an episode. The second purpose is to able to retrain the way you respond to your potential “triggers.” After you practice the simple skills provided to you below, you will begin to experience calm during situations where you felt only stress before.

Whatever you’re internal fears maybe or whatever phobias you may have, these skills will give you the strength to regain control and retrain your responses.

1: Relaxing Muscles You can be sitting down or lying down to do this exercise.

Start with your shoulder muscles. Tense up your shoulder muscles counting to four or five. (Don’t give yourself a cramp.) Then release the shoulders. Notice how good it feels. Count to four or five as you release the shoulder muscles. Repeat this procedure three times with each muscle group in your body (arms, legs, hands, feet, jaw, etc.) focusing on how good it feels to release the tension in your muscles. You may wish to start with your toes and then move to your feet, calves, thighs, butt, stomach, fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, face and neck, however, the order is not important.

Do this procedure in the car, in a traffic jam, during times of stress as well as a “timeout” from anxiety. Also, you may find it helpful to breathe deeply with your diaphragm while doing this exercise.

2. Meditation

Multiple studies have shown meditation to be a very successful form of stress reduction. There is nothing mystical or hocus-pocus about meditation. The primary cause of anxiety is what I call the “Monkey Mind” meaning over active or out of control thoughts. Through effective meditation, you can slow down your thought process and thereby reduce stress and anxiety.

The first step is to find a comfortable position. Many people choose to sit with good posture in an upright position. However, I use a moving mediation; I stand and sway. Start preparing by doing a few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing and muscle relaxation exercises to get relaxed.

Next, close your eyes. (Studies show that by simply closing our eyes we can reduce our brain activity by up to seventy-five percent.) Your thoughts will start to come and go. Let them come and go with ease, don’t dwell on anything specific. See if you can begin to clear your mind, having as few thoughts as possible. There is no need to become or be anxious. Simply let the thought go each time you begin to dwell on a specific thought.

Do what feels right for you. Do you need a CD? Quiet space? A favorite pillow? Get what you need to begin and let your mind enjoy the quiet peace of tranquility.

Try to meditate at least once every day for at least twenty minutes or any time that you feel stressed or anxious. Meditating will leave you refreshed and help to become aware of your thought process. It will also help to bring you out of anxiety and recondition you to react more calmly in stressful situations. Don’t worry if you become so relaxed that you nod off and fall asleep.

3. Mantra

Another element to help eliminate the “Monkey Mind” is to concentrate upon or repeat a mantra. A mantra is quite simply just a word or a phrase we visualize and then repeat over and over again. The purpose of a mantra is to eliminate thoughts that continually keep coming back into your mind.

Begin to meditate, deep breathing, and start with a mantra of numbers. Counting your breaths, close your eyes and breathe. Visualize and focus upon the numbers; one, two, three, four, five, six, seven… Then count as you breathe out, focus upon and visualize the numbers: One, two, three, four, five, six, and seven… You can also use your favorite quote, song, name or verse. Now visualize each letter’s, size, shape, dimension, color and texture. The idea is to have a positive focus to eliminate excessive thinking.

4. Refocusing

Another powerful coping skill is the ability to refocus your attention. In times of anxiety or stress, your attention is focused almost entirely upon your own self-created “worry thoughts.” Refocusing your attention away from the worry thoughts, will bring relief.

Find a mental activity that will distract you from, but not escaping the anxious way of thinking. This exercise can be as simple as counting the tiles on the floor in the room where you are sitting, or trying to remember and recite the capitals of all fifty of the United States. It does not matter what form of distraction you use although the more mentally challenging the activity is, the more focus it will take giving you a swifter release from the tiring grip of anxiety.

Another way of applying the refocusing technique is to combine it with one or more of the other coping skills. For example, while practicing diaphragmatic breathing you may wish to focus upon the air that you are inhaling and exhaling or focus on the numbers that you are counting as you breathe. Or, when doing the muscle relaxation technique, you can focus intensely upon each individual muscle and the counting of the tightening and releasing of that muscle. Then concentrate upon the way that the relaxed muscle tingles and feels.

The idea behind all of the refocusing techniques is distraction without escape. Do these or create and apply your own distractions any time that you feel anxious. This will give you immediate relief, help to prepare you for positive self-talk and begin to recondition your responses to stressful situations.

5. Additional Coping Skills

The following is a list of additional coping skills and affirmations that you may wish to add to your daily exercises.

Abundance list: Every day write a list of ten things in life that you have to be thankful for. Examine and think about each one in depth.

Affirmation statements: Each week create a list of five affirmations and read them out loud to yourself three or four times daily. For example:

1. I am a caring and loving person.

2. Every day I am practicing, learning, growing and becoming a healthier human.

3. I am becoming more aware of my thought process, gaining control of my thoughts, and reducing my anxiety.

4. I am perfectly normal and wonderfully unique.

5. I am calm, confident and happy to be alive.

Pray. The power of prayer and all its mysteries cannot be underestimated. Doctor after Doctor in hospitals around the world sings the accolades of the power of prayer. I strongly recommend it.

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