So, as you may know, I have separation and social anxiety disorders (both SAD, both ironically and usefully) and receive counseling as a way to help and try to overcome the disorders. If you’re worried about something in particular, often feel stressed or sad, have anxious thoughts frequently or just generally have a low mood then counseling is an easy and effective way to sort things out and also get a secure diagnosis. You can also visit a GP to get a diagnosis or referral, but talking to a counselor is the best way to get your feelings out and start to receive help.
After a session today I was recapping everything we’d covered and thought that incorporating my counsellor’s ideas and suggestions into a post would not only be great for me to use as I can reciprocate what she was saying and also touch on the things I need to work on personally but also beneficial for you as you might take something from this. So, without further ado, this is a recap of my counseling session, listing the most useful techniques to use when anxiety kicks in or when you need to challenge negative and unrealistic thoughts. Most of these techniques do work for me as they are the ones we focus on developing at counseling sessions so if you feel as if they aren’t the ones for you, don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to cope with your anxiety and everyone responds to methods differently.
Realistic and Unrealistic Thoughts
People with anxiety generally worry a lot, although the worry can come in many shapes and forms. For example, some may feel anxiety on most days but it is manageable and controllable; others may feel that their anxiety comes in strong waves and panic attacks are something they suffer from frequently. Unrealistic thoughts can often trigger things such as anxiety attacks or a sudden or intense state of feeling anxious, so they should be something to avoid at all costs. They can be anything from worrying about the sudden death of a close relative to worrying about giving a speech and forgetting the words or falling over. Mine often come in the form of the first thing I mentioned, worrying about the loss of a loved one even though they may be completely fine and healthy. The anxiety associated with unrealistic thoughts is relatively easy to evade, and once you learn the techniques the difference can be gargantuan.
The one thing I was taught to do when I think unrealistic thoughts could be taking over is to challenge it. Start with a 50/50 odd that your worry will happen, and as you think about reality and the actual chance of that happening, the 50 decreases and the worry becomes more of a 5/95 worry – which is very unrealistic. So, for example, if I am anxious about the death of a parent after I come home from school, there are many ways to challenge that. Think about their general health and age, and how many people just suddenly die without a diagnosis or clear explanation; think about the chance of it happening to that specific person regarding the huge amount of people living on Earth; think about the odds that you would come home to find them gone, rather than being phoned or alerted earlier; think about the likelihood of something being diagnosed before a death. These factors all make a big difference when put to the 50/50 rule, and it can determine whether what you’re stressing over is realistic or completely unrealistic.
Following on from the previous point, if your thoughts are unrealistic, the likelihood is they will be unlikely. Don’t spend your time worrying over these thoughts as it is not only a waste of time, but you are also causing yourself extra stress and anxiety over something that may be very, very unlikely. Yes, it may be difficult to convince yourself to stop worrying over things that probably won’t happen, but it is manageable and can be a game changer. Think to yourself about the probability of it happening and if it is unlikely, banish it from your mind.
Face Your Fears
You may be reading this and suddenly feel funny when this is pointed out; I know the feeling that I get when people suggest simply facing up to your fears in order for it to go away. Although they might not understand how it makes you feel, their point is a valid one. By standing up to things that do cause you anxiety and make you feel stressed, you are not avoiding the problem and thus making the anxiety become bigger, you are confronting it and doing the opposite. So, if you are like me and find many social activities difficult and anxiety provoking, there are baby steps you can take to working on these fears and facing them. Number one, a small thing I’ve been trying to do recently is to use music to calm myself down when I’m by myself in public – for example, if I’m on public transport, I’ll listen to music to reduce my anxiety. This has been really useful for me as it not only allows me to do things that would usually cause me a fair amount of stress, but it’s also become a coping method I use frequently in order to stay calm.
Find Out What Works For You
Following on from the last point, it is so important to identify what helps you! By finding out the techniques and methods that you find useful and the ones you don’t find as helpful, you’re giving yourself useful knowledge that you can use. I have been working on perfecting the techniques that I already know are useful to me, and there is definitely a noticeable change – everyone is different and therefore the same two things don’t work for the next person. If you aren’t sure about any more possible coping methods and you feel as if there aren’t any that really work for you, using an Alter Ego has been so helpful for me, and you can customize it to work for you, too.
Fight or Flight
These are the two options your body has when it’s faced with danger or a potential threat. Fight would take the form of facing the fear and responding aggressively, and flight is the other response – running away and hiding, metaphorically. People who have anxiety or panic attacks are experiencing a more extreme flight response, where the body is very stressed or anxious and cannot cope.
By addressing this when you feel stressed and thinking about solving the problem rather than focusing on the problem or worry itself, you can evade panic attacks. I try to focus on my body and the physical symptoms, whilst trying to calm down, so I don’t concentrate on the problem and make things worse. By thinking about your breathing and trying hard to maintain a slow and steady breathing pattern, you are taking your mind off things whilst reducing the chance of you becoming overwhelmed and perhaps having a panic attack; if you have different symptoms, such as nausea and stomach aches, focus on these and work on alleviating the pain by reducing the stress you feel. I think you need a while to get used to this tip and although I’ve used it in the past, it is a challenge to adjust to and fit to work for you.
So, these are the highlights from the most recent counseling session I partook in, and I hope that by sharing them with you, it has not only improved my understanding and allowed me to explain it myself, but also helped some of you. Feel free to have a chat and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you feel anxious or would like some support, as I am always here and would love to give a helping hand! Remember, the most important thing you can do when battling a mental health disorder or feeling low or anxious frequently is to reach out, tell people and receive help.