How To Develop Coping Strategies for Anxiety Relief
In my view, coping is one important factor behind anxiety attacks. It’s the lack of coping skills that seem to give anxiety an open door.
It makes sense when you realize how stressful it can be to get caught in a situation that, at least for the short term, is out of your control. Naturally, anxiety is going to jump right in because that’s what anxiety does. It forces us to make a decision and it gives us the adrenalin to do whatever is necessary to survive.
For our ancestors, that adrenalin rush gave them the strength to run from a dangerous situation or fight with whatever was threatening them. Things are much different today, but the body’s “fight or flight” response remains intact.
You might ask, what happens to that extra unreleased adrenalin. For one thing, tension results because we haven’t dealt with the fear anxiety effectively. As pioneers, we would have fought or run for our lives. Afterwards, we would have felt drained but tension-free. Problem solved.
Today more aspects of our lives are out of our control. Without a job, we don’t eat. Without money, we lose our house or we can’t heat it. We can’t clothe ourselves or take care of our families. We must follow certain rules of society that didn’t exist in the time our descendants. These are all situations that can cause fear and anxiety. If the fear is allowed to continue, we will become frustrated and anxious. If these issues remain unresolved, depression will result.
It’s important, therefore, to find out how to release that adrenalin-induced tension and fear quickly and effectively.
I firmly believe that by developing coping skills, we can keep our anxiety attacks to a minimum. The key is to have those skills in place before they are needed.
The first step, therefore, might be to determine what things in your life are stressful now that make you feel like you have no control over the outcome.
Fear will cause some people to avoid whatever is causing it. For example, if you are afraid of elevators or flying, you will do whatever is necessary to avoid those things. This doesn’t resolve the fear, however. It simply lets you hide from it.
It’s been my experience that one fear can soon lead to another until you become paralyzed by a number of perceived life-threatening situations. While avoidance might appear to give you control, it really doesn’t do so very effectively. At best, it is only a temporary solution.
If you fear elevators, for example, you will be restricted by places you can go. If, at any time, you have to visit a relative in a high rise or have an injury and cannot take the stairs, your ability to cope in those situations will be over.
We’ve all heard about the buddy system, where you find someone who will help you through some form of rehabilitation. We’ve also heard the expression, “do that which you fear”. In other words, if you force yourself to go to places that scare you, you will eventually become desensitized to them.
The first recommendation, then, is to take a look at your current coping skills. When difficulties arise, how do you deal with them? Does your method resolve the issue or does it merely delay the inevitable?
Some people don’t resolve issues; rather, they dwell on them. This merely serves to magnify the problem because the more they examine the issue at hand, the more problems they’ll find and the less able they will feel about ever finding a solution to make it go away.
One of the best coping skills I can recommend is to look ahead, not back. In other words, don’t spend more time on the issue than is absolutely necessary. Take the time to evaluate all the ins and outs of the situation and look for the positives.
Here’s a situation that put the fear into me, along with major stress and anxiety.
Not long ago, I inherited an estate that included a huge tax bill. It was substantial to the point I would end up losing the house and all my savings. I would have no where to live and no money left to rent an apartment or even a room. At 60 years of age, this was an extremely fearful concept for me.
Now, this might be an extreme situation, but it was nonetheless true. I was devastated. My blood pressure went sky high and I felt those distinguishing symptoms of an oncoming anxiety attack. I began to sweat, my body tensed, I felt nauseous and my head was spinning. It wasn’t just my mind that went haywire – my entire body felt like it was suddenly escaping my control. I began to panic and wanted to just curl up in bed and hide.
Twenty years ago, this would have triggered a full-blown panic attack, but this time it didn’t. Once the initial shock of my predicament was over, I began to think rationally, but I had to force it. All I really wanted to do was focus on the tax bill and figure out who at the government I could beg to give me a break. Of course, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. When governments want their money, they’ll do whatever they need to do to get it, regardless of the person’s resulting welfare.
Actually, it was a good thing for me to realize that fact, because it just made me mad and increasingly determined to find a more creative solution. In the end, I came up with two options, other than selling the house. Selling wasn’t really an option because the remaining money wouldn’t sustain me for long. It was imperative that I keep the house.
To make a long story short, I was fortunate to get a mortgage and pay off the government and although it resolved the immediate emergency, it leaves me with another bill I can barely afford to pay. The important thing for me to remember is that I now have control. I can sell if I want or I can go after the second option or I can work harder on my business to make the money needed.
Sometimes, solutions might be short term and that can be a good thing because it gives us a break. It enables us to release the fear and tension and, hopefully, avoid a full-blown anxiety attack. Remember, though, that a more permanent solution eventually is needed – the sooner the better.
One step at a time, is my motto. Today I have the mortgage. The next step is to stay motivated and not succumb to anxiety and panic, or even depression. By being strong, I know I can resolve this once and for all. It might not be next week or even next year, but it will happen because I know I can make it happen.
It’s this inner strength that we all need in order to overcome the situations that bombard our lives and trigger stress and anxiety.
Start developing your strength today by taking on the issues that cause you anxiety one at a time. Do it in small steps. Focus on the carrot at the end of the stick. What good will come of your progress?
You’ll never fear another elevator or flight. You’ll be able to visit loved ones, wherever they are. You can take those terrific exotic trips or alpine vacations if you wish.
It’s sure to be a bit difficult at first, but persist and you will win. You will take back control of your life, one step at a time. If you need support, don’t hesitate to ask a loved one or seek other sources to help you through each step.
Start today, and by the time an anxiety-inducing situation arises, you will be equipped to deal with it quickly and move on with your life.