Know This One Thing to Help Reduce Anxiety
Do you know that according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America that 18.1% of the population in the US struggles with anxiety?
If you've been to a therapist for anxiety, we're sure you've been told to do coping skills. But...did you know that there is a specific time to do these coping skills?
That's right, doing these coping skills at just anytime is not helpful. Instead, coping skills need to be utilized either prior to the increase of anxiety or at the very beginning of the episode. If you wait until anxiety is at its peak, coping skills are not going to help much as much as they could. The only thing you'll be able to do at that point is wait it out. :(
So what can you do to help have your anxiety without your anxiety having you? Grab a piece of paper and something to write with. Let's do some work here:
1. Start with identifying the places, people and situations that create anxiety for you. Write them down.
2. Do these happen randomly (unpredictable) or are they on a schedule or routine (predictable)? For example, if you feel anxious when the kids come home from school, that is usually every day at 3:30pm (predictable). Whereas, if you get anxious every time you see a red truck, that is random (unpredictable). Write the times or "random" next to each item on your list.
3. Now, for every predictable item on your list I want you to place a reminder somewhere you will see it to help remind you to use your coping skills BEFORE the stressor occurs. For example, if your kids come home at 3:30pm, tape a note by the clock that says, "COPING SKILLS: 3pm". Do this for all of your predictable stressors.
4. For your unpredictable items, you’ll need to be more proactive. Think about when these unpredictable items occur. For example, if red trucks bring on anxiety and you don’t plan to leave the house today, no need to be proactive about coping strategies. But, if red trucks bring on anxiety and you DO plan to leave the house, you should be frontloading your coping. This might mean listening to soothing music as you drive. Or maybe you will have your favorite soothing scent on a cotton ball in a baggie in your car.
In both of these scenarios, the most important point is to be proactive with coping skills. Waiting until you feel an unmanageable amount of anxiety is too late. Use your coping skills, use them early! Good luck!
Jessica Schroeder is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist and Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor in private practice in historic downtown Leavenworth, Kansas. Jessica specializes in Couples Therapy and Trauma with adults and children.