Hi! My name is E, and I am a fifteen-year-old entering my sophomore year of high school. Ever since I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety. I know personally how hard it is to live every day with this adversity in my life. Not until recently, however, have I felt real relief and peace of mind. For about 5 months I have been attending therapy, learning new methods to cope with the anxiety that has plagued my mind for far too long. Over these past few months I have compiled many tools that now help me in my hardest moments. I would like to share some of these ‘tools’ with everyone who is faced with this challenge.
First, I would like to talk about things that you can do in your daily life even when you aren’t feeling anxious. These are not strategies that I follow religiously, nonetheless, they can be very helpful when having a tough week or moment in time.
- Appreciation to the small things (A.K.A.-stop multitasking!)
- I know that it is very tempting to sit back and watch your favorite show during meal times or play video games while waiting in the checkout line, but if you allow yourself and your brain to focus on one thing at a time, you’ll feel a lot lighter, so to speak, in your day-to-day life. I myself have spent many dinners sitting in front of my phone, fixated on the Netflix show in front of me; though I have also tried just eating. Focusing on chewing and swallowing and the flavors you are experiencing can help ‘train your brain’ to focus in on activities and become stronger in times of anxiety.
- I recommend finding an app on your phone that works for you. Even if you are only spending 8-10 minutes a day meditating, it really calms you down and puts you in a different mental state. Speaking from experience, if I am ever having trouble falling asleep, I will try meditating; it really allows myself to slow my thoughts down and feel relaxed enough to doze off.
Below are 8 strategies that you can use to choose that wolf; the one that will help you to overcome your fears.
- Look at the evidence: What is the logical outcome of the situation? In what ways have you acted in the past that might help you to navigate the outcome of a certain event causing you worry? Let’s say you’re nervous about taking a test, thinking in extremes, fretting that because you didn’t study that extra hour you are going to fail. Look logically at the situation. Have you ever, actually FAILED a test-to the extent of 59% or less? Most likely, the answer is no. It is your anxiety doing this talking; calm yourself down and think about what is the reasonable result of the situation; a.k.a.: YOU WILL DO FINE!
- Self talk: Going hand in hand with looking at the evidence, tell yourself that this is just the anxiety talking; it is not what is really going to happen most likely. You are truly okay. Formulate a mantra that may help you cope with a specific fear and repeat it to yourself in times of uncertainty. Some mantras to myself include: I am a smart, strong, independent person who is organized and can tackle any problems that she may face. This way I am reminding myself of my strengths rather than my weaknesses, allowing the anxiety level in my brain to lower.
- Pay attention to the “What Ifs?”: Everyone has them. What if I fail this test? What if my best friend decides she hates me? What if my parents die in a car crash? What if the impending hurricane takes out my house? They are a key ‘tell’ to see if you are thinking rationally, or just being anxious. Use them to know if you should really be worried about a situation. If it has the words “What and if” attached to the beginning, it is truly just your anxiety questioning your brain of every horrible possibility you can think of. Sure, they can all happen, but it is not likely. Most of the time it is just a way for you to work yourself and your brain up into a tizzy.
- Read about the science of Anxiety:If you are ever truly curious as to why anxiety makes you feel a certain way, search up the science of it all. What actually happens is very similar to many other bodily functions and allowing yourself to realize this is one step to understanding that it truly is all “in your head”.
- Accept that you are feeling anxious: This is another mantra you can repeat to yourself; just allow yourself to feel anxious. It is okay every once in a while. This way, you won’t start worrying about being anxious; you can just live with your thoughts and wait for them to pass.
- STAR in the testing environment:
- S: When faced with a difficulty, stop for a moment
- T: Take a breath-take a few slow deep breaths
- A: Accept that you are experiencing difficulty and are anxious (#5); all is well
- R: Resume-try the problem again or move on to the next problem
8. Belly Breathing: Although this may be one of the simplest tools, it can also be the most helpful. Simply breathe in and out with your stomach, watching it rise and fall. Believe it or not, this will allow you to take deeper breaths. With each of these breaths, think “I am breathing in happy, relaxing thoughts, and out my worries and fears”
All of these strategies have really helped me to overcome my anxiety for the most part. Yes, it will always be something that I have to live with; however, now, I have this toolbelt of strategies to allow myself to cope with it.