People often wonder if they need counseling for anxiety. Counseling may help you identify the source of your anxiety and take steps to reduce and even get rid of it altogether. Over time, your anxiety may be completely replaced by a new sense of energy and enjoyment of life. So, yes, counseling can be very effective for addressing anxiety that has gotten out of control.
However, you can start right now to help yourself with this problem. Here are some simple tools that will start you on the way to better days:
- Meditation: I use a simple form of meditation. I just sit in a chair and concentrate on breathing deeply in and out for about fifteen minutes. If I don’t have fifteen minutes, any amount of time is still beneficial. Meditation helps you calm down while you are practicing it, and it also increases your ability to manage stress all throughout the day. It’s really like exercise for your brain and sympathetic nervous system. One little tip I have used that made all the difference for me is that I keep pen and paper close by so that if I have a particularly intrusive thought during meditation, I can just take a minute and write it down. Once I write something down, the urgency decreases, and I can just go back to breathing deeply.
- “The Worry Jar”: This technique helps you gain control over your thoughts and focus. List all your worries on separate strips of paper. Worry for a certain period of time, say fifteen minutes. When the fifteen minutes are up, put each worry in a jar and seal with a lid. Tell yourself that as long as the lid is on the jar, these worries are not your problem. You could even say that God is working on these for you as long as the jar is sealed. Once a week, sit down with the jar, and go through each worry. Throw out the worries that have sorted themselves, add new ones and worry about the longstanding ones for fifteen minutes. Then seal it for the next week. During the week, you are not allowed to worry unless you stop what you are doing, go and sit down with the worry jar and take the lid off. If you can’t stop worrying, make yourself stop doing everything else, and worry instead. You will find over time that you don’t want to stop what you are doing and so you will postpone worrying until later. The more you exercise that choice, the more you will be able to protect yourself from too much stress.
- Exercise: Even fifteen minutes a day of walking will help you with stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Get Your Rest: I know that’s easy to say, but I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t vital to your recovery. If you are having trouble with insomnia, you may have to force yourself to go to bed at a decent hour and it may take time before your circadian rhythms get back to normal. If you are lying there with your eyes wide open feeling stressed, think about having a spiral notebook and pen close to your bed so you can journal, or keep some sort of handwork by your bed so you can pick it up until you calm down. You can also read, but don’t read anything that will increase your anxiety. If you have a favorite book of prayers, that could help. Stop drinking caffeine after 3:00 p.m. and force yourself to go to bed at a decent hour. Stop looking at all electronic screens one hour before bedtime. Reduce your alcohol intake.
- Think of yourself as a kindergartener: Think of the nervous part of yourself as a five year old. Would you load him/her down with unrealistic expectations, force him/her to spend time around negative, critical people, neglect to feed him/her a healthy diet, expose him/her to horrible news stories, violent television programs, and stressful electronic games, and last but not least, insist that (s)he live in a house not fit for humans? There may be very practical reasons you are having a problem with anxiety. Begin to address these situations as an adult would who was responsible for the care of a five year old. Make things as simple and comforting as possible.
I hope these suggestions help. Having someone on your side while you face whatever demons are causing your anxiety can be extremely valuable. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with me or another counselor you can work with.