Managing Anxiety

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Try using worry scripts to lessen anxious thoughts over time
MoodFx Tip – Week of June 4, 2017

Last month, we shared information and resources on worry diaries, which can help you to identify your anxious thoughts. This week, you can learn to lessen those anxious thoughts with worry scripts.

From AnxietyBC:

Worry scripts are a helpful tool for managing your excessive worries. This skill is most useful for worries about hypothetical situations over which you have little to no control. Examples of these types of worries include:

  • Worries about you or a loved one developing a serious illness
  • Worries about you or a loved one being in an accident, getting injured, abducted, or killed
  • Worries about failure or loss in your future (e.g., losing your job, getting divorced)

 These worries take up a lot of time and energy, and they probably cause you a great deal of anxiety.

In general, the best way to get over fears is to face the fear through gradual exposure. The problem is that although this kind of exposure is very helpful for getting over a fear of dogs, for example, it is not very useful when your fear is of a negative event in the future that has not happened, and may never happen.

In this case, the best way to deal with your worries is to write a worry script. It is similar to a journal or diary entry, where you write out in great detail your worst fear every day for about two weeks.

Note that to get the benefits of a worry script, you do have to commit to working on it daily; half an hour every day over two weeks is recommended.  You can wait until you have the energy and motivation to undertake this task–it doesn’t have to be right away, but when you feel ready to try this strategy.

For the step-by-step guide through this process care of AnxietyBC, click here.


 

Keep a worry diary
MoodFx Tip – Week of April 24, 2017

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One of the first steps in managing anxiety is learning to identify the specific situations that trigger your anxious thoughts and feelings.  Because anxiety can often make it seem like lots of things are going wrong, taking a few moments to focus in and clarify what exactly is making you anxious can be tremendously helpful.  Identifying the source of your worries is also the first step in problem-solving, a powerful, proactive and long-term strategy for alleviating anxiety.

One of the best ways to identify and clarify anxiety triggers is to write anxious thoughts down.  Writing helps us keep track of what’s bothering us–especially when our minds are abuzz with anxious thoughts–so we can pinpoint the root sources of our worry.

To this end, try keeping a worry diary, a small notebook or pad of paper in which you can jot down any and all anxious thoughts whenever they occur.  Once you’ve written them out, review your list and try to identify the root problem(s) that are the cause of your anxious thoughts.

For more information about how to keep a worry diary and get the most out of this practice, check out the following free resources:

Online article, How to Gain Control of Worry and Anxiety – Use a Worry Diary to Challenge Your Worries and Feel Better

Printable Worry Diary worksheet from Anxiety BC.

Stress and Worry Guide .pdf booklet

 


 

Try a self-care strategy for anxiety or stress
MoodFx Tip – Week of March 27, 2017

people woman old stitch wool pink hobby

Photo credit: Igor Ovsyannykov, stocksnap.io

 

Try using one of these self-care strategies for some immediate relief the next time you feel anxious or stressed out. Or, think of your own idea of an activity you can do to soothe, distract, or support yourself. A list of these kinds of easy, simple self-care activities can serve as your very own self-care toolkit.

Physically pleasant self-care activities:

  • take a long, hot bath or shower
  • interact with or cuddle a pet
  • ask your partner, friend or family member for a shoulder massage
  • do some light stretching in an open space of your home, paying attention to how your muscles feel; then curl up on your sofa or bed with blankets and let your body relax
  • go for a walk around your neighborhood or engage in more rigorous cardio exercise, such as jogging or cycling
  • spend a few minutes taking in a beautiful or relaxing environment, such a pleasant view or greenspace

Distracting self-care activities:

  • watch an engaging TV show or movie
  • phone a friend
  • pick a small task related to a hobby to work on for five or ten minutes
  • Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community; this can also help build a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.

Self-supporting self-care activities:

  • Do your best, and remind yourself that that is enough.
  • Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?

 

MindShift, a free app for Anxiety
MoodFx Tip – Week of January 23, 2017

If you struggle with anxiety as much as depression, you might benefit from checking out MindShift, a free app developed by AnxietyBC and the BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services.

According to the AnxietyBC website,

“MindShift will help you learn how to relax, develop more helpful ways of thinking, and identify active steps that will help you take charge of your anxiety. This app includes strategies to deal with everyday anxiety, as well as specific tools to tackle:

  • Test Anxiety
  • Perfectionism
  • Social Anxiety
  • Performance Anxiety
  • Worry
  • Panic
  • Conflict

Think of MindShift as your portable coach helping you face challenging situations and take charge of your life.”

mindshift_1mindshift_4 mindshift_6

Screenshots of MindShift.

You can read more about Mindshift here, or download the app to your mobile device through the Android and Apple app stores.

 


 

Strategies to overcome perfectionism, from AnxietyBC
MoodFx Tip – Week of December 12, 2016

Perfectionism–the tendency to hold unrealistically high standards for oneself or others–can be a big source of anxiety.  If perfectionism contributes to some of the anxiety you experience, check out this guide from AnxietyBC to recognizing perfectionism and developing tools and skills to challenging perfectionistic thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. These include:

  • realistic thinking
  • perspective taking
  • considering the big picture
  • compromising
  • practicing being “imperfect”
  • overcoming procrastination
notebook, paper, pencil, sharpener, business, creative, office, desk

Perfectionists tend to set extremely high standards that are either impossible to meet or that can only be met at great personal cost. Image credit: Angelina Litvin, StockSnap.io

Anxiety BC - Anxiety British Columbia Canada

www.anxietybc.com


 

Free Relaxation Method Audio Guide
MoodFx Tip – Week of November 14, 2016

Previously, we featured tips on progressive muscle relaxation and calm breathing for managing anxiety.  If solo progressive muscle relaxation and breathing is challenging for you, check out this free online audio guide to stress-relieving relaxation exercises.

This Relaxation Method Audio Guide is part of the Positive Coping with Health Conditions Self-Care Workbook by Dan Bilsker, PhD, RPsych, Joti Samra, PhD, RPsych, and Elliot Goldner, MD, FRC(P), MHSc.  The PCHC workbook is a self-care manual authored by scientist-practitioners with expertise in issues relating to coping with health conditions.

PCHC workbook, cover-prescription

The PCHC workbook is helpful for people dealing with mental as well as physical health conditions and includes sections on well-known positive coping skills, including:

You can download a copy of the workbook or access it online for free here.


 

Worry periods, CBT, and mindfulness
MoodFx Tip – Week of October 10, 2016

 

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Here is a compilation of strategies for managing and calming anxiety from around the web.  Don’t forget that it takes time and practice implementing concrete strategies to see the biggest benefits–so don’t be discouraged if something you try doesn’t help right away or completely fix the problem.

From HelpGuide.orgHow to Stop Worrying: Self-help Strategies for Anxiety Relief

From the Australian National University Counseling Centre – The 10 best ever anxiety management techniques

From Here to HelpAnxiety Disorders Toolkit


 

Learning to practice progressive muscle relaxation
MoodFx Tip – Week of September 5, 2016

Our last anxiety tip focused on learning how to introduce a practice of calm breathing.  This time, we highlight another instant anxiety reliever, muscle relaxation. According to AnxietyBC, muscle relaxation consists of “learning to relax your body by tensing various muscles and then relaxing them. This strategy can help lower overall tension and stress levels. It also helps you to be more aware of when you are feeling stressed.

Read the how-to guide at the AnxietyBC website, here.

Helpful hints:
  • Set aside about 15 minutes to complete the exercise.
  • Find a place where you can complete this exercise without being disturbed.
  • For the first week or two, practice this exercise twice a day until you get the hang of it. The better you become at it, the quicker the relaxation response will “kick in” when you really need it!
  • You do not need to be feeling anxious when you practice this exercise. In fact, it is better to first practice it when you are calm. That way, it will be easier to do when feeling anxious.


Learning to practice calm breathing
MoodFx Tip: week of August 7, 2016

Learn to practice calm breathing to slow down anxiety with this original article from AnxietyBC (original article).

What is “calm breathing”?

Calm breathing (sometimes called “diaphragmatic breathing”) is a technique that helps you slow down your breathing when feeling stressed or anxious. Newborn babies naturally breathe this way, and singers, wind instrument players, and yoga practitioners use this type of breathing.

Why is calm breathing important?
  • Our breathing changes when we are feeling anxious. We tend to take short, quick, shallow breaths, or even hyperventilate; this is called “overbreathing”.
  • It is a good idea to learn techniques for managing “overbreathing”, because this type of breathing can actually make you feel even more anxious (e.g., due to a racing heart, dizziness, or headaches)
  • Calm breathing is a great portable tool that you can use whenever you are feeling anxious. However, it does require some practice.


Learn to recognize (and challenge) unrealistic thoughts
MoodFx Tip – Week of  July 25, 2016

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Photo credit: John-Mark Kuznietsov, stocksnap.io

 

Oftentimes, anxiety is caused and sustained by unrealistic thoughts, also known as distorted thinking.  Distorted thinking is common in depression and anxiety.  For example, a person who is anxious may unrealistically expect only the worst possible outcome of a situation to occur, often without even realizing it.

One effective and widely-studied strategy for dealing with distorted thinking is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).  CBT teaches us how to identify and challenge the kinds of distorted thoughts that can create and sustain anxiety and depression.

Some common distorted thoughts include:

  • All-or-nothing thinking – Thinking about things in black-or-white, all-or-nothing terms, with no middle ground. “If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”
  • Overgeneralization – Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever. “I didn’t get hired for this job. I’ll never get any job.”
  • Mental filter – Focusing on the negatives while ignoring all the positives, including diminishing the positive – Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count. “I got positive feedback on my last work assignment, but I think my supervisor was just trying to be nice.”
  • Jumping to conclusions – Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You may be a mind reader: “I bet he doesn’t like my work.” Or a fortune teller: “I just know something terrible is going to happen.”
  • Personalization – Assuming responsibility for things that are outside your control. “Sales aren’t as high as last year; I must be doing something wrong.”

Although CBT is often practiced with a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counsellor, self-guided CBT programs have also been shown to be effective for people with depression and anxiety. There are a variety of self-directed CBT resources available, both in print and online. You can also speak to your family doctor about referrals to counselling programs services providing CBT in your area.


Make plans to get outside and be physically active
MoodFx Tip – Week of  May 15, 2016

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Photo credit: Curtis Mac Newton, stocksnap.io

 

Exercise contributes not only to our physical health, but our mental well-being as well. Many studies have shown that physical activity can help reduce stress and anxiety, both immediately and over the long term with a regular exercise routine.

Now that warmer weather & longer days are upon us, it’s an excellent time to schedule some physical activity into your day.  Aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity three to five times a week, but do make sure to stick to activities that are appropriate for your fitness level and abilities .

If you have any questions or concerns about increasing your activity level, you should also speak to your family doctor.

Read more about the benefits of exercise for anxiety: Exercise for Stress and Anxiety, Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

 

 

Free mood-boosting and anxiety-busting audio guides
MoodFx Tip – Week of February 29, 2016

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Photo credit: Padurariu Alexandru, stocksnap.io

 

This week, try using one or more of these free, short, mood-boosting and anxiety-busting audio guides, provided by the NHS in the UK.  Ranging from 5 to 15 minutes, these short sessions provide simple, commonsense advice on ways you can take action to improve your mood and reduce anxiety. Topics include:

  • low mood and depression
  • panic attacks
  • anxiety
  • anxiety control training
  • sleep problems
  • practical problem solving
  • low confidence
  • unhelpful thinking

There are many audio guides to walk you through feelings of depression & anxiety available for free online.  To ensure the resources and information you find are reliable, consider the source. University health sites, for example, often have great information appropriate for a wide audience. Check out the audio guides from the following university health centres:

 


Practical worksheets for managing anxious thoughts, from AnxietyBC
MoodFx Tip – Week of February 1, 2016

This week, try working through one of these worksheets from AnxietyBC.  Although simple, they can guide you through implementing some basic and powerful CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) concepts that are proven to help lessen anxiety.

Try carrying the worksheets with you in your bag or purse for just one day, and work through each column whenever you become aware that you are feeling anxious.  (Note that the more you practice, however, the easier and more effective the exercise will become.)

Realistic Thinking (Worksheet / Examples)

Helpful tip: As you work through your Realistic Thinking worksheet, try using the “Thinking Traps” worksheet to identify whether any of your anxious thoughts fall into one or more of the “Trap” categories.  You might be surprised!

Thinking Traps (Examples)

Don’t forget, it’s important to write your thoughts and feelings directly on the page. This helps you to examine your thoughts from a more objective, concrete perspective.

For more worksheets and resources for anxiety self-management, check out AnxietyBC’s Complete Home Toolkit.


 

Strategies to overcome perfectionism, from AnxietyBC
MoodFx Tip – Week of January 11, 2016

Perfectionism–the tendency to hold unrealistically high standards for oneself or others–can be a big source of anxiety.  If perfectionism contributes to some of the anxiety you experience, check out this guide from AnxietyBC to recognizing perfectionism and developing tools and skills to challenging perfectionistic thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. These include:

  • realistic thinking
  • perspective taking
  • considering the big picture
  • compromising
  • practicing being “imperfect”
  • overcoming procrastination
notebook, paper, pencil, sharpener, business, creative, office, desk

Perfectionists tend to set extremely high standards that are either impossible to meet or that can only be met at great personal cost. Photo by Angelina Litvin, StockSnap.io

 

 

Anxiety BC - Anxiety British Columbia Canada

www.anxietybc.com


 

Audio guides for anxiety management
MoodFx Tip – Week of December 7, 2015

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photo by Martin Vorel, Stocksnap.io

 

This week, try out one of these audio resources for managing anxiety symptoms.  AnxietyBC provides free, downloadable guides to calm breathing, mindful body awareness, visualizations, confidence-building exercises, and more.  Download one (or all) and add them to your phone or music player so you have easy access when you need to relax.

Check them out here.

 


 

Solve a problem
MoodFx Tip – Week of November 16, 2015

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Sometimes we worry because it feels like a necessary part of solving a problem.  This can certainly be true when our worries are manageable and motivate us to solve a problem.

However, for people with anxiety, these worries usually go a bit too far.  Rather than motivating us to solve a tough problem, overly intense and insistent worries can make it harder to face a challenging situation by trapping us in rumination.

Instead of worrying, taking concrete steps to develop and implement a solution to a problem is one of the best ways to alleviate anxiety. Taking action can not only help to solve your problem, but can also make you feel more in control.

This week, try solving a problem in your life, be it a smaller (“I need to organize the paperwork on my desk”) or larger (“I’m feeling lonely and should make new friends” or “I have a deadline approaching and I’m worried I won’t finish in time”) concern.

To help you, you can follow this guide, from AnxietyBC.

For further reading on self-help strategies for generalized worry and anxiety, check out this guide.

 


Top Ten tips for anxiety
MoodFx Tip – Week of October 26, 2015

Australian National University has a helpful page describing their top ten tips for managing anxiety.  Each tip falls into one of 3 categories of how to manage the different aspects of anxiety:

  1. physical arousal
  2. tension, stress, and dread
  3. rumination (thinking too much about what is causing you distress)

Check out their top ten here–and maybe try compiling your own list of strategies that work best for you.

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Getting outside into the beauty of nature works well for us! Photo credit: Annie Spratt, StockSnap.io

https://counselling.anu.edu.au/brochure/10-best-ever-anxiety-management-techniques

https://counselling.anu.edu.au/brochure/10-best-ever-anxiety-management-techniques


 

Cognitive-behavioral strategies for challenging anxiety
MoodFx Tip – Week of October 5, 2015

This week, check out this guide to using cognitive-behavioral self-help strategies to challenge anxious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors: https://www.ntu.ac.uk/student_services/document_uploads/107734.pdf

sun med

An excerpt:

T – Challenging your Anxious THOUGHTS

There are various common patterns of anxious thinking that you can spot and challenge:

  1. All or Nothing Thinking, i.e. you’re either “brilliant” at something or “rubbish” at it. If you make a mistake, you’re “a total failure”.
  2. Overgeneralizing, i.e. if you didn’t get on with people at a party once, you tell yourself “I never get on with people at parties”. “I always fluff it”.
  3. Crystal ball-gazing, i.e. assuming you can see into the future – “I’ll only get a Third and then I won’t be able to find a decent job”.
  4. Ignoring the Positive, i.e. dismissing any success or good qualities you have, rationalizing that they “don’t count” for some reason – or not even noticing them in the first place. “Being a good mate isn’t going to get me a decent job”.
  5. Mind-reading, i.e. believing you know what others are or will be thinking – “they think I’m stupid/useless/a prat”; “she’ll think I’m really immature”.
  6. Catastrophizing, i.e. immediately worrying about the worst case scenario – if you have chest pains you worry that you’re having a heart attack; if you’ve got a headache you worry that you’ve got a brain tumor.

How to Challenge Such Thoughts

  1. Notice if they fall into one of the above patterns of anxious thinking. Be honest.
  2. Ask yourself – what’s the evidence to support this thought? And what’s the evidence against it? What would be a fairer thing to be saying to myself?
  3. Ask yourself – what are the chances of such and such happening? Force yourself to be realistic here. If you’ve been anxious for years but have never actually fainted from it, the chances are you’re not going to start now.
  4. What would you say to your best friend if they came out with your thoughts? Now say that to yourself.
  5. Tell yourself that you CAN cope, you CAN handle it – don’t undermine yourself and don’t underestimate your determination, resilience and ability to learn new coping skills. You are not weird or inadequate; you are simply coping with anxiety.

Find a positive thought to replace every anxious thought and make an effort to believe it!

Check out the rest of the guide for more information about anxiety, strategies to manage anxious feelings and behaviors, and recommendations for further reading.

 


 

Read & Do: simple, short, step-by-step introduction to managing anxiety, from AnxietyBC
MoodFx Tip – Week of September 14, 2015

If you have anxiety, be it part of a depression, a separate anxiety condition such as social anxiety or OCD, or general everyday anxiety, AnxietyBC is an excellent resource for you.

This week, check out their introduction to managing different forms of anxiety, including a video by psychiatrist Dr. Michael Catchpole.

For those of you with mild-to-moderate generalized anxiety, including what might be part of a depression, read through their 4 self-help strategies to practice basic self-management.

For those of you with a suspected or known anxiety condition, check out their section of resources for 7 different anxiety disorders.

AnxietyBC is a non-profit organization based in British Columbia, Canada, whose mission is to increase awareness about anxiety disorders; promote education of the general public, affected persons, and health care providers; and to increase access to evidence-based resources and treatments.


 

Work through this free self-help guide to Stress and Worry
MoodFx Tip – Week of August 16, 2015

This week, check out this comprehensive Stress and Worry self-help guide developed and provided by the UK’s National Health Service Foundation Trust.

Stress and Worry - Your Self-help Guide

The workbook includes helpful sections you can read and work through at your own pace and compiles many of the helpful strategies we’ve featured here, including a stress and worry diary, tips for “balancing” the stress equation by reducing demands and increasing your ability to cope,  and sections dedicated to problem solving, time management, and reducing physical symptoms and managing troublesome thoughts.

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