According to the Global Organization for Stress, a notable proportion of working adults in major global economies experience stress. When we are in a state of anxiety, our emotional sensitivity becomes heightened, causing us to perceive supportive or positive emotions as negative ones, such as anger or fear. This, in turn, amplifies our anxiety, leading to a cycle of increasing distress.
Despite the challenges posed by anxiety, it is important to maintain a positive outlook. The anxiety loop can be broken by implementing strategies that are backed by scientific research to address and alleviate anxious feelings. By gaining a deeper understanding of anxiety and its underlying mechanisms, we can explore effective and science-backed tips and techniques that have been proven to be helpful in managing and reducing anxiety.
How does anxiety happen?
When you experience internal stress and anxiety, it indicates that your body is producing cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine at higher levels. These hormones can further exacerbate the cycle of anxiety. Cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” serves as a short-term survival mechanism. It typically takes a few minutes for stress to take effect. However, excessive cortisol production can lead to chronic illness. Adrenaline, also known as the “fight or flight” hormone, causes sweaty palms and a racing heart during stressful situations, providing a burst of energy in case you need to escape or defend yourself. Norepinephrine, similar to adrenaline, keeps you awake, alert, and focused.
Regardless of whether stress stems from external factors, genetic predispositions, traumatic events, or psychological factors, these hormones are always involved when anxiety or stress is felt. Interestingly, the way we perceive and think about stress and anxiety can actually influence our behavior.
5 Coping Techniques for Anxiety and Stress
When experiencing stress and anxiety, it is common to feel vulnerable or insignificant. However, maintaining a positive mindset and recognizing your self-worth is crucial.
Taking a moment to step back from a stressful situation and recharge can enable you to adopt a healthier and more beneficial mindset. This shift in perspective promotes increased productivity, creativity, and motivation to persevere.
To alleviate stress and induce relaxation, here are 10 helpful tips on managing anxiety:
Learn the 5-4-3-2-1 technique.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique can be a valuable tool to help you unwind and relax in the present moment. It can be used anywhere, anytime, and here’s how:
- Take a moment to identify five objects in your surroundings that you can see.
- Notice four things you can feel, such as the texture of a surface or the sensation of your breath.
- Pay attention to three things you can hear, whether it’s the sound of birds chirping or distant traffic.
- Identify two things you can smell, whether it’s the aroma of coffee or the scent of flowers.
- Finally, focus on one thing you like about yourself, recognizing and appreciating your positive qualities.
When experiencing anxiety, it is often challenging to stay grounded in the present moment. Anxiety tends to pull our attention towards the past or future. However, this exercise serves as a way to bring your focus back to the present. By engaging your senses and acknowledging positive aspects of yourself, the 5-4-3-2-1 Technique can help you cultivate mindfulness and alleviate anxiety.
Talk in the third person.
Have you noticed that you are kinder and more forgiving towards your friends than yourself? A unique solution for anxiety is to talk to yourself in the third person. Researchers have found that using third person self-talk creates a “psychological distance” between us and perceived threats. Engaging in third person self-talk allows you to gain a more objective perspective on situations, preventing you from being overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. It also enables you to extend the same kindness and support you would offer to a close friend.
To put this technique into practice, recall a recent stressful or anxiety-inducing situation. Replace the negative thoughts you had with positive third person self-talk. By incorporating this approach, you can cultivate a more compassionate and supportive internal dialogue, which can effectively alleviate anxiety.
Do the opposite action.
If you find that your anxiety tends to lead you towards self-destructive behaviors, there is a technique called “opposite action” that you can try. This technique involves doing the opposite of what you would typically do when you feel stressed, worried, sad, or upset.
For example, if you usually feel the need to make your bed and keep everything organized before leaving the house, try letting it grow messier instead. Break the rules you used to follow and complete tasks in a different order. Sometimes, our brains get stuck in patterns, and shaking things up can help reset them. While this technique may not solve everything, it can certainly be helpful. The next time you feel stuck or in a rut, try engaging in an opposite action from what you would typically do.
Use the ABCDE model.
Psychologist Albert Ellis developed the ABC model, later reformulated as the ABCDE model, to address anxiety as part of cognitive behavioral therapy. The concept behind this model is that our beliefs can be the source of anxiety, and by changing our beliefs, we can alter our emotions.
The ABCDE model consists of five steps, each represented by a letter:
A: Activating event: This refers to the real-world experience or adversity that triggers anxiety, such as being late or missing a deadline.
B: Beliefs about the event: These are the thoughts and beliefs you hold about the event, such as “I don’t work hard enough.”
C: Consequence: This is the emotional or behavioral outcome that arises from your beliefs about the event. For example, you may feel useless and give up trying to be punctual.
D: Dispute the beliefs: This step involves challenging your dysfunctional beliefs. Ask yourself questions like, “Why do I have to be perfect?” Seek evidence that contradicts your negative beliefs.
E: Effect: Take note of your feelings after engaging in this exercise. See if you can modify your beliefs through logical reasoning, changes in behavior, or taking action.
By carefully analyzing and understanding our anxiety using the ABCDE model, you can gain more control over it. Do not hesitate to explore the events and triggers that activate your anxiety.
Learn anti-stress body language.
When you find yourself entering a stressful mental state, it can be beneficial to adjust your physical posture to exude strength and confidence. Here are some techniques to adopt strong body language:
- Roll your shoulders back and down your spine.
- Lift your chest and tilt your forehead up towards the sky.
- Place your feet firmly on the ground, keeping them shoulder-width apart.
- Relax your arms, allowing them to rest naturally by your sides.
A study conducted by Jessica L. Tracy and David Matsumoto discovered that athletes who won races displayed more expansive body language, while those who lost exhibited more defeated body language. By adopting a confident and expansive body posture, you can convey a sense of assurance and be perceived as more confident. This is known as “high body power”—occupying space with your body.
It is crucial to recognize that stress and anxiety can stem from underlying issues. If you find that your symptoms persist or significantly impact your daily life, seek medical help from a qualified doctor or healthcare professional. They can provide an accurate diagnosis, offer appropriate treatment options, and provide the necessary support tailored to your specific needs. Remember, professional assistance can play an important role in effectively addressing and managing stress and anxiety.
If you are considering seeking support from a mental healthcare professional, visit Mindshift Psychological Services. You may check out their website to learn more about them or contact them at (714) 584-9700 to schedule an appointment.