1 Addressing the cause of your anxiety
The primary stage of anxiety recovery is alleviating the symptoms. You can read more about that here. The next stage is understanding the possible cause for anxiety. Some people find this very hard to do. For many, it does not pertain to a significant event in childhood or indeed adulthood. Some find they may have a predisposition toward anxiety while others may be experiencing a very stressful time in their lives.
Understanding the context is important. More often than not, chronic stress or a significant life change can trigger anxiety. We have different areas of our lives that require our attention at different times. Our jobs/careers, friends, family, relationships, hobbies and interests all require our attention at different stages throughout our lives. Often, when one requires our attention more than the other or they need our attention simultaneously we become stressed which can lead to anxiety.
Imagine it on a scale of 1 to 10. On the lower end of the scale, you’ve got a healthy level of stress ranging from 1 to 5. Once you go beyond a 5 you reach low levels of anxiety. At the upper end of the scale (8 to 10) you’ve reached higher levels of anxiety. Ideally, we want to be on the lesser end, so toward a 1 or 2 on a scale. However, if we reach levels of 10 and beyond, that’s when it becomes problematic.
Significant change in our life can also trigger feelings of anxiety. The change can be positive such as a new relationship or starting a new job. The point is it’s a significant change and change is unfamiliar which means we’re out of our comfort zone, which can be hugely anxiety provoking.
If we’ve had a difficult experience in the past in either of these areas it can inform our current feelings of insecurity and dread and feel really scary.
It’s important to recognise this so as to prevent a relapse in future.
A useful question to consider is ‘Where am I at on the scale? and ‘What’s been happening in my life since or before I began to feel this way’?.
It may be with hindsight that we recognise this.
2 Practice calm every day
This will help you let go of the need for control. This can be something simple like ten minutes of meditation every day (a useful app for this is CALM). Practising yoga can also be helpful. I find this Youtube channel useful.
If achieving calm via relaxation is difficult for you, you can try something more immersive such as reading a book, listening to an audio book, cooking, knitting, exercising, singing etc. The important thing is that you have daily switch off time. By doing so you are teaching your brain to slow down and calm down. You’re also proving to yourself that you are capable of feeling calm. It’s important to remind yourself of this experientially (i.e by doing and experiencing calm) as well as cognitively (by telling yourself).
3 Remind yourself of how far you’ve come
You’re so much stronger than you think. Celebrate your success. Taking time out to recognise this is really important and again regular ‘calming’ practice can help you to reflect on this. You have all the skills and knowledge within you to overcome future adversity. Remember that.
4 Practice self compassion
Again this is imperative. Consider the way in which you are speaking to yourself. Ask yourself am I speaking to myself with kindness or am I speaking to myself harshly? There are times when you may become triggered into anxiety again. It is very easy to say ‘I should be over this’. This causes you to feel like you’ve failed and it further causes you to feel disappointed with yourself.
A helpful step here is to accept where you’re at within yourself and plan around that. I have detailed some useful self-talk techniques in previous posts. I find the Calm app particularly useful for this type of thing. It has a range of accessible ten minute meditations, many focused on self-compassion and loving kindness meditation.
5 Take regular breaks
We all need escapism, particularly if recovering from anxiety. Find what this is for you and go ahead and do it. Some people find walking or being outside with nature really helps them. Others find listening to music, baking, watching movies, are all great escapist activities.
People often find they are scared to spend time alone when recovering from anxiety. They fear that they will regress and have a full on panic attack. The important things to remember here is that fear is just a feeling and you can go on despite the fear. If you’ve overcome your anxiety then you know that!
So, find what your escapism is and promise yourself to make it a regular part of your life.