I’ve done a lot of research on how to cope with anxiety in the past year. This is not something I’ve ever felt. So when someone I love started experiencing anxiety, I could not relate. I needed to help her, but I had no idea how to deal with anxiety. Thankfully, there are some really helpful books out there for children and adults. I started by putting a few on hold at my local library. I would educate myself, and we would get through this!
One thing I learned is that anxiety is very common. If you deal with anxiety, you are not alone! 1 in 8 children and 18% of adults in the United States have anxiety disorder. Many more struggle with feelings of anxiety or panic but are not officially diagnosed with anxiety disorder.
I was convinced of two things: 1) I did not want her to feel unsafe 2) I wanted her to be armed and ready to face her fears.
I knew she would have a huge struggle on her hands all her life if she got into the habit of giving in to her fears and running away from scary situations.
These are 5 steps to follow when fighting anxiety or dealing with a panic attack. This especially holds true when you don’t have a trusted person around to help you. Or, if you are the trusted helper to someone with anxiety, you can refer to these steps when your loved one is feeling overwhelmed. First we practiced together and I talked her through each step. Then I explained that she could do the same on her own even when I wasn’t there to help her out.
- Label the fear
- Ask yourself, is it true or false
- Take deep breaths
- Say a prayer
- Lock it away or let it go
This is why each step helps:
- Label the fear. It helps to label what exactly makes you anxious. Otherwise it’s just a big, overwhelming emotion. By labeling it you start to take control.
- Ask yourself; is it true or false? If the thing or situation you fear starts with the words “what if”, it’s false. And 9 times out of 10, the worry starts with those words. Panic is when your brain starts up the fight or flight response. This is a perfectly normal and useful process, except when it kicks in in response to something that is not immediately dangerous. Usually when anxiety takes over, your panic is lying to you and making something that isn’t dangerous seem to be. Now you’ve labeled your fear or worry and your brain knows it’s not really dangerous.
- Take deep breaths. This helps your body calm itself down from the fight or flight response.
- Say a prayer. Prayer is calming, but also reminds you that you are never truly alone. Who better to have on your side when you feel afraid than a loving, all-powerful Father?
- Lock it away or let it go. For an adult who has experience with anxiety, you may be able to just let it go. But if this is new to you and you aren’t sure whether this item you fear is or is not truly dangerous, put away the worry for now. Lock it up until you can talk about it with a trusted listener or write it out in a journal. When you are calm and feel safe, the worry won’t seem as real or as dangerous. You will be able to put it into the right perspective. This helps lessen the impact anxiety has on your everyday life. A word of caution, make sure you do later express your feelings in a healthy way.
Learning to ride out the panic wave, using these techniques has really helped. I hope they help you as well. It’s good to have some tools to deal with panic and anxiety. These steps don’t make anxiety go away. I’ve learned that it comes and goes randomly, when you least expect it. But knowing what to do when anxiety strikes is invaluable.
This challenge is relatively new to us. We are just learning how to deal with panic and anxiety. This simple theory has worked for now. I’ll keep you posted if we learn more useful tips as we go along.
Have you used any of these 5 steps to deal with anxiety? What else have you found that helps? Please leave a comment below.