Beyond Worried – How Can I Manage My Anxiety?
In this blog, Divorce Consultant and Individual & Relationship Therapist Andrew Pearce discusses how best to manage anxiety to avoid it reaching potentially problematic levels.
Anxiety is a normal and healthy human emotion. Indeed a certain amount keeps us on our toes perhaps. We can tolerate peaks of anxiety as long as there are corresponding troughs of peace and calm, respite and recovery.
For many the global backdrop provokes great concern. What about climate change, economic uncertainty, the war in Ukraine, the cost of energy, the list could go on – often fueled by media speculation. In many ways the odds are stacked against us.
Even with a level playing field, during prolonged periods of stress and pressure of any kind (and family separation and everything that goes with it, is a prime example) there is a real risk for any of us that anxiety builds to a problematic level.
One way to think about anxiety is that it is high energy combined with negative emotion. Please see my description of what happens when the “water level” gets too high in my blog on resilience (found here) which many people find a useful way to frame this idea.
Left unchecked, anxiety can quickly build to a point where it starts to interfere with daily life. Perhaps we start avoiding situations or people, relentless checking and planning, endless “what ifs” and second guessing and in effect being controlled or governed by emotion which itself can feel uncontrollable and very frightening.
Often people are able to “self manage” and prevention is better than cure. So, simple self care steps go a very long way, and when the pressure is on, they often get neglected.
Many people find the following useful:
Box breathing (inhale for a count of 4/hold for 4/exhale for 4/hold for 4 & repeat).
Mindfulness/releaxtion techniques (there are loads available for free on YouTube).
Challenge your thinking:
Write worries etc down (especially in the middle of the night),review them when feeling calmer, challenge generalisations ( things like “always happens”/”never happens” etc), consider if there is anything you can personally do to manage the situation or if you are best to work to accept it, perhaps ask a friend to be a “critical friend” over coffee and cake not to advise, but to challenge your thought patterns etc.
Plan in worry time:
Rather than telling yourself to stop worrying maybe jot things down as they occur (park them) and then twice a day for 10 minutes have some scheduled “worry time”.
Some people find positive affirmations helpful. Telling yourself strong/positive statements can really help (again there is lots of information available online).
Eat a balanced healthy diet and exercise regularly.
Connect with friends & family.
Connect with nature.
Minimise substance use.
Be strict about sleep hygiene.
Notice and minimise negative or unhelpful influences and notice and maximise helpful or positive influences.
Clearly this list is not exhaustive. We recognise the challenges of divorce and separation and have a wealth of experience supporting people through the process whatever it might entail. If you feel you are struggling please contact me or my colleague Jo Harrison to make an appointment.