Our anxiety is supposed to help bring us back to being our true, genuine selves. However, when we get stuck in a loop of fear, anxiety, and worrying, the effects can be detrimental. Chronic Anxiety can create compulsive behavior, as well as trigger a host of health problems.
When we are anxious, our bodies give us extra fuel to help us get out of certain life or death situations. The down side is that our bodies will even recognize our emotions as life or death situations. As a result, we release hormones that can boost our blood sugar, triglycerides and heart rate. When the excessive fuels we get aren’t released for physical activities, we get physical consequences like a poor immune system, digestive disorders/stomach aches, short-term memory loss, coronary artery disease, and even heart attack. If left untreated, we can develop obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and suicidal thoughts. In treatment we must find ways to cope; we must find ways to stop our bodies from releasing these hormones when we don’t need them.
To stop the release of these hormones, we will need to harness skills to intervene with our thoughts. The important thing to remember is that we do not want to make some of these things a habit. There are three types of skills that we will be looking at:
- Calming Skills
- Distraction Skills and,
- Distress Tolerance Skills
Some of the coping strategies we develop may be a part of one, two, or even all three of the skills.
These skills promote our overall relaxation and are, in my opinion, our first line of defence. The main idea of calming skills is to put our attention onto something else that makes us smile. It can be simple things, like counting our blessings, and is one of the reasons one of my very first posts on this site was the gratitude challenge (Click HERE to see the gratitude challenge). Alternatively, we can do things like play with our pets, take the dog for a walk, or even going for a walk in nature. Animals and nature, on their own, also have their own therapeutic effects on us.
This skill is similar to the calming skills, but they give us an immediate distraction. It can be something as simple as getting up and grabbing a glass of water, or a quick bite to eat. By doing a small action like these we change our immediate thought pattern. These techniques may also remove us from the environment that is causing the anxiety, making it easier to breath our stress away. (Click HERE for my breathing guide). One may also find distraction in playing games like Sudoku, computer games, or even listening to music; which can also be a Calming Skill. Although these techniques are good, be careful not to rely too heavily on any one activity, as it can potentially lead to negative habits. Everything in moderation is best.
Distress Tolerance Skills:
Alarms are going off and things are going crazy! The Distress Tolerance skill is what I think of as a last resort. This is for when our emotions are like a car alarm going off, and for the life of you, you cannot find the remote to turn the alarm off (or better yet, you press the off button, but the alarm keeps going). I am sure most car alarm owners have had that happen once or twice!
The purpose of this skill is to literally shock our nervous system to bring us back to our senses. This can be simple things, like splashing your face with the coldest water you can find; taking a squirt of lemon juice, or other sour juices; smelling vinegar; jogging on the spot to help us use up those hormones; or even going out side when it's cold out.
With the right skill set, we can grow and harness the negative powers of our anxiety to grow to new heights. It may take some time; so please, do not get discouraged. Good things happen to us instantly, but the great things…The great things take time.