from “Anxiety Management Techniques”, by Margaret Wehrenberg. Psychotherapy Networker
Sept/October 2005, pg 47-60.
Method 1: Manage the body! Eat right, avoid alcohol, nicotine, sugar, caffeine, and Nutrasweet. Regularly practice deep, calm breathing, learn to stop catastrophic thinking, and keep a ‘Panic Journal’. An easy acronym to remember is CATS. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, sugar, & Nutrasweet.
Method 2: Breathing WILL slow down or stop the stress response. By breathing slowly and deeply for ~ one-minute several times daily, we can develop a habitual response to stressful moments.
Method 3: Mindful awareness helps to keep our thoughts from running forward into the future. Close our eyes and breathe while noticing how our body feels. With our eyes still closed, we purposefully shift our awareness away from our bodies to everything we can hear or smell or feel through our skin. Shifting awareness back and forth several times between what’s going on in our bodies and what’s going on around them helps us learn that there are things which we can control. We can learn to ignore physical sensations and to stop making catastrophic interpretations that trigger more worry.
Method 4: Don’t listen when worry calls your name. Worry is a habit with a neurobiological underpinning. Learn to have an awareness when worry starts [“That’s just my anxious brain firing wrong”]. Use the first sign of worry as a cue to use techniques such as positive self-talk, thought stopping, or deep breathing to manage your anxiety.
Method 5: Knowing, not showing your anger. The next time you’re anxious, immediately sit down and write as many answers as possible to the question, “If I were angry, what might I be angry about?” Restrict answers to one word or a short phrase.
Method 6: Have a little fun. Laughter is a powerful way to discharge tension. Read a book, watch a movie, do something pleasant, go to a comedy club.
Method 7: Contain your worry. Imagine an open container ready to receive every concern on your mind. See and name each issue and imagine putting them into the container, placing a tight lid on it, and placing it on a shelf. Once the container is put away, invite into the newly freed space in your mind whatever is the most important current thought or feeling.
Method 8: Consistently interrupt rumination. Thought-stopping / thought-replacing is a highly effective CBT technique for disrupting persistent worry. It must be done EVERY time we catch ourselves ruminating.
Method 9: Worry well, but only once! Set a time to worry through all your issues. Do anything that must be done in response to the worry during this set time. Whenever a thought pops up again, say, “Stop! I’ve already worried about that.” Distract yourself as quickly as possible with another activity. Plan in advance what distracting activities might be and have them on hand.
Method 10: Learn to replace worry with a plan. A big difference between planning and worrying is that a good plan doesn’t need constant review. Concretely identify a concern. List the problem-solving options available. Pick one of the options and write out a plan of action. Your plan then becomes part of the thought-stopping statement, “Stop! I have a plan!”
Method 11: Strengthen self-acceptance/appreciation – less dependence on external and more internal.
Method 12: Consider the perspective of “Radical Acceptance”. Viewing self/people/life with less of a black-white, good-bad judgment, more chain of events, more compassion.
Method 13: Strive for “wise mind” as the decision-making control center rather than the strictly emotional or rational mind.
Method 14: Turn more often to the “Gratitude Channel”.
Method 15: Utilize visualizations, such as safe container, safe place.
Method 16: Identify/externalize symptoms and emotions by labeling, creating a metaphor.
Method 17: After identifying symptoms/emotions, take control, by either telling them to stop or asking them to increase (this commanding of your emotions or symptoms puts you in control and the ironically the emotions/symptoms most often decrease).
Method 18: Realize that triggers might be from past trauma/emotional injury. Consider counseling or joining a support group.