‘The Five Steps to Managing Anxiety’

This blog post is the seventh in a series of posts that are excerpts from my full length published article, ‘Five Simple Steps To Managing Anxiety’ available for immediate download from my website by this link: http://www.glennburdick.com/anxiety_help.htm

The Five Steps to Managing Anxiety

Now, with the physical exam out of the way, we can focus on what I consider to be the general principles for coping with anxiety. I have coined these as The Five Steps, as they are always involved in working effectively with anxiety disorders. I, myself, employed them for overcoming my social anxiety, and they form the foundation of my work with clients:

  • Be willing to feel your fear
  • Relax your resistance to the experience of fear in your body
  • Accept your discomfort as distressing but not dangerous
  • Regulate your breath, preventing hyperventilation and move your body
  • Begin to say ‘yes’ to what you have been avoiding all this time

Remember that what you resist persists. On the other hand, if you are willing to feel the very uncomfortable sensations of anxiety for a few minutes and not attempt to distract yourself, numb yourself, or run away from the experience, it will begin to level off and diminish within a few minutes. Remind yourself that the feelings are certainly distressing, but anxiety is not dangerous, so there is no risk in staying put, and there is no real need for alarm.

Now, quite often as anxiety and fear increase your breathing will start to become shallow and rapid. Lengthen your breath so that each inhalation and each exhalation takes 3-4 full seconds, and move your body to interfere with the tendency to move towards hyperventilation.

As you have some successes shortening the periods of anxiety that develop you must stop avoiding the previously avoided situations. Otherwise, each time you avoid or run from the feared situation, your fear and tendency to avoid the situation becomes a little stronger. Most people find it easiest to begin doing this in their imagination.

There is a process I employ with clients called ‘covert rehearsal’ in which you repeatedly imagine yourself in the feared situation, beginning to feel the anxiety mounting, and successfully employing the five steps. You then progress to putting yourself in the actual situation, a little bit at a time, while employing the five steps.

Next post in this series: “My Anxiety Treatment Toolbox

(photo credit: TuTuWoN)

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