Author: Buffy Andrews MSW, LCSW

We’ve all been plagued with it at some point. Anxiety sometimes wreaks havoc like a cancer in our lives. Maybe you, or someone you know struggles with feelings of anxiety at times. I myself feel caught in throws of anxiety in moments too. If you struggle with it, or someone close to you struggles with it, maybe you know that anxiety is not always as simple as a false core belief or thought. Anxiety often manifests itself physically and it can be very difficult to identify the root (core beliefs or thoughts) of the anxious distress. Maybe its a tightening of the chest, maybe it’s panicked breathing, or twitchy muscles, or maybe feelings of extreme fatigue. Whatever it is, you may know that when these feelings come on it can be difficult to bring the body back to homeostasis. And if you didn’t know, now you know.

So what do we do to support ourselves and support those around us who struggle with this anxiety?

Step #1:

Acknowledge it! Don’t just sweep it under the rug. Don’t wish it away. Don’t push back and tell it off. Acknowledge what you (or the person you love) is going through. Validate that it’s there, but don’t stay here.

Step #2:

Don’t live in the anxiety. Yes, acknowledge it, but don’t let it define you. Truthfully though, step two is this- really understand the physical manifestations you or your loved one is experiencing and start utilizing coping skills that directly calm down those somatic symptoms. If your breathing is too heavy or panicked utilize a deep breathing technique (i.e. belly breathing, or 4,5,7 count, etc.) or a nervous system calming breathing technique such as alternate nostril breathing. The Yoga Journal has lots of great breathing techniques for you. If your chest is tight, try doing some heart opening yoga postures. If you are developing headaches, drink lots of water. Etc. (Heck – just drink lots of water anyways).

Step #3:

Be Prepared! (Cue Lion King soundtrack). Create a game plan, create a routine, create a crisis plan, etc. The more prepared we are, the better we are going to be at reducing anxious distress. The more you understand your loved one’s cue, and triggers, the better you are going to be at not being a trigger yourself. The more prepared the less overwhelming the stressful situations/people/things become. When we know better, we do better right? So make the calendar, schedule, write the list out, have the proactive conversations, give yourself a pep talk in the mirror right before a big event, whatever you might need to do to be more prepared so the wave of anxiousness does not overtake you – DO IT. Be overly prepared is not weakness, it’s wisdom. Prepare for yourself, and prepare for your loved ones.

Step #4:

Repeat steps 1-3. Thank you Brian McKnight for your wisdom

In all seriousness though, the biggest anxiety busters include acknowledging the TRUTH of the matter, COMMUNICATING thoroughly about triggers/cues/expectations/desires/etc, and being DISCIPLINED in doing it all over again day in and day out.

About the author: Buffy Andrews is a mental health counselor in Wilmington, NC who uses her 8 years of experience in the field to support people on their path to wellness. Her clinical specialties include Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral therapy and other modalities. She is also a registered yoga teacher (RYT200) which helps her incorporate mind/body techniques and promote mindfulness for people in all walks of life. You can reach out to Buffy via email at buffy@madewellcenter.org or call/text her at 910-200-6825.