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ask a therapist

Dear Therapist,

Self-isolation is really starting to get to me. My anxiety goes up easily and I don’t know what I should do. Can you give me some ideas on how to lower my anxiety?

 

Thanks,

Cora B.

 

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Dear Cora,

We asked all of our licensed therapists to share what they do to reduce anxiety.

Here are some of their suggestions:

mental health is important

Photo: Yanula Pengenika

Ask Yourself These Questions

Think about what the problem is.
What can I control?
What is real, what is not?
What is the worse case scenario I am thinking of?
What is the best benefit for myself and others on how to act upon in this anxious feeling I am in and this scenario I fear?

Think about:
What are my coping skills, who are my supports, what are my resources, what are my strengths to overcome this anxiety?

If there is something to be done….do it. If not and being still is the answer, follow the grounding exercise below.

Practice a Grounding Exercise

This is a basic grounding exercise called 5-4-3-2-1. It engages the senses, and gets you out of the emotional brain…and saying it out loud really engages the logical/rational part of the brain.

 

Maintain an Exercise Routine

It is easy to fall out of a routine when gyms are closed, but this is the time to take that virtual exercise class you always wanted to try, for free, or go for a run or a walk at nearby park or in the neighborhood (with a buddy-by practicing social distancing, or solo).

Practice: Make a list of free virtual workouts: Try something different each day. Enlist the help of friends or family to stay motivated. Maybe create a friendly exercise competition. Here are some websites and apps to get you started:
Yoga with AdriennePaleoMG–Fitness
Tone It Up
TMAC FITNESS
Bad Yogi 
Yoga with Adrienne
POPSUGAR Fitness
www.crossfit.com
Beach Body
Runcoach App
Wikiloc App
Nike Run Club App

One therapist said: “I’ve incorporated going for a run outside every day to ensure that I get fresh air and some Vitamin D. Also, I work out 2-3 times a week and do yoga every evening prior to going to bed.”

Eat Healthy

Many of us find we work longer hours and are possibly more focused at home to complete tasks, but with that comes the danger of skipping meals or falling into the temptation of eating take out often.

Practice: Set a reminder for lunch and break on your work calendar to ensure you remember to take breaks.* Make healthy meals during the week and enjoy take-out only for weekend activities.

*Taking breaks helps promote motivation, reduce stress, and reward ourselves for the hard work during the day. Remember, fast-food and other restaurants do not have your health in mind when making meals. You have the greatest opportunity to maintain good health by cooking your own meals.

Stay Hydrated

photo of water glassDrinking plenty of water is important so you reduce possible dehydration, stay full between meals, and feel alert.

Drinking water can help reduce anxiety and keep you from feeling tired during the day.

Practice: Keep a large reusable water bottle near your work station to remind yourself to hydrate (6-8 glasses of water per day). You can also set reminders to drink water each work hour.

Practice Healthy Sleep Hygiene

Our sleep routine tends to be the first thing to suffer when we are not going to the office.

Practice: Set a sleep schedule, such as setting your phone to do not disturb after 9 pm and turning off all electronics and alerts until 8 am.

Take a Deep Breath

Close your eyes, get comfortable in your, and start taking deep breaths.

We will be taking 3 sets of 3 breaths.

First, take 3 breaths as you set an intention for the day – how you want it to be.

Second set, take 3 breaths and think of 2 things you are grateful for.

Finally, take 3 breaths and know that you are nourishing your body as you breathe in, and as you breathe out you feel the tension melting away from your body.

Socializing and Self-Care

self-care ideas

Photo: Introvert Doodles

As humans, we crave connection. Do what you can with the resources you have available.

Practice: Stay connected by scheduling family or friend game night via Zoom or any other video platform, dressing up for a nice dinner for date night, watch a new flick with your buddies over Netflix, etc.

Take care of yourself by reading a book, learning a new skill, learning a new language, making at-home beauty masks and manicures…the possibilities are endless.

Practice Self-Compassion
On top of self-care, also work on your self-compassion. Click here to read more about self-compassion, which the author describes as kindness toward the self (being gentle, supportive, and understanding).

Get Creative

One area that I have been speaking with all clients about is the importance of creativity. I believe it’s important with mental health and anxiety.

Any kind of art works, but if I have a client who owns an instrument or is interested in learning one, I highly encourage them to start. You can get lost in it, in a good way, and it provides a sense of accomplishment as you progress. A lot of online lessons are free or discounted right now, too.

Set Goals

I like to encourage people to make a goal for themselves during the evening. Write it down. When they wake up the next day, they know what their goal is for the day.

Practice:

  1. Wake up and the first thought is centered on what you are thankful for. Develop a thankful heart. What are you thankful for today? Meditate on that.
  2. Get out of bed, wash up. Look at the goal you wrote the prior evening. Maybe write down a thought about it or modify.
  3. Be active. Be outside and take breaks outside at least 2 times a day. If possible, work in the yard or with plants. Get your hands in dirt.
  4. Look at the goal again that was written the prior evening. Do one thing that moves you toward that goal. See what happens…
  5. Journal, color, play, laugh and take deep breathing breaks. Stretch frequently.

What Can You Control?

Photo of what you can and cannot control

Photo credit: TheCounselingTeacher.com

I have clients identify the things that they are already doing that are within their own control.

Sometimes people don’t realize that they are actually focusing on things that are within their sphere of control. Then we explore other things they can be doing, such as eating meals at the same time every day, maintaining hygiene, etc.

I also help clients explore their experiences with social media and the news.
Are they watching a lot of news or spending hours on social media?
What is happening to their bodies when they do so – racing heart, sweaty palms, etc.?
Are their thoughts and behaviors impacted?

I also remind clients that limiting their exposure to social media and news is definitely something that is within their sphere of control.

We explore how taking in information can trigger the part of the brain (amygdala) that is scanning our environment for danger…increasing our anxiety, stress, etc. So I encourage them to step away from the media/news to give their brain and bodies time to rest.

Renew Your Mind Daily

In some cases, you may have to renew your mind many times throughout the day. Remember we don’t have to feed catastrophic thoughts. We have a choice to stop that thought, acknowledge it. Positive thoughts can be cultivated, encouraged and shared. Thoughts come to pass up or pass on.

Feelings come to pass. Acknowledge the feeling. What is it based upon? It’s like taking your temperature. We don’t need to feel our way through problems. It’s like feeling your way through a room with no light…That’s when you stop. Ground yourself. Assess the situation, make adjustments if needed and you will see the way. Positive feelings can be encouraged and shared.

Shift Your Mindset

Anxiety is something I’ve been dealing with a lot lately. So when it comes to myself and my clients, I reassure them that what’s happening in the world is TOTALLY out of our control. We can’t change it, we can’t go back in time, we can’t fix it so we have to move onto radical acceptance and do our individual part to keep our community safe.

Whenever something less than ideal happens in life I try to shift my mindset to, “OK what can I take away from this?” “How can I grow from this?” and I come up with a list of positive takeaways.

I also have been encouraging myself and clients to spend some time sitting in nature. On some of these nice days we’ve had, it almost feels as if the world is completely ok when you spend a few minutes focusing on cloud formations or on the way the trees sway with the breeze. To be present in the moment is such a powerful thing!

Use Music to Relax

Below is the list of the Top 10 most relaxing songs, which you can find together as a playlist on Spotify. This is from a pretty well-known study out of the UK. Click here to read an article from INC.com that references it, but there are lots of references to this online.

Most Relaxing Music

10.“We Can Fly” by Rue du Soleil (Cafe del Mar)
9. “Canzonetta Sull’aria” by Mozart
8. “Someone Like You” by Adele
7. “Pure Shores” by All Saints
6. “Please Don’t Go” by Barcelona
5. “Strawberry Swing” by Coldplay
4. “Watermark” by Enya
3. “Mellowmaniac (Chill Out Mix)” by DJ Shah
2. “Electra” by Airstream
1. “Weightless” by Marconi Union

 

Sincerely,

The JFS Clinical Team

 

Disclaimer: The contents of the Jewish Family Service of San Antonio blog are for general use or informational purposed only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The use of any information contained on this site is solely at your own risk. If you would like to speak in detail with a licensed therapist, please email referrals@jfs-sa.org.

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