How to Cope with Anxiety

coping with anxiety, anxiety relief and remedies, depression and anxiety tips

*Archive Post*


If you caught this post last week, you learned about my life long struggle with anxiety and depression. In the comments someone asked me how to cope with anxiety, so I decided to do a post on how I’ve coped with anxiety over the years.

The first two things I tried were therapy and medication at the age of 17. I think for where I was at during that time, the medication was the biggest thing that helped. I was struggling with PTSD and kind of a zombie on so many levels that as a senior in high school, therapy was more about showing up and making sure I wasn’t going to commit suicide, then actually developing lasting coping skills.

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When I went to college I started seeing a counselor through the counseling center on campus. *If you are a college student, I strongly recommend taking advantage of those therapy sessions! You usually get around 8 per semester as part of your tuition, but most students don’t take advantage of this* My counselor(s) at the University of Florida (I had two individuals counselors over the course of my education there) advocated for me with the school to waive the cap on my sessions, so I could see them every week. It was during that time that I really started to shift the way I saw things.

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I started to notice my internal dialogue, the signs I was on the verge of a panic attack, and began learning about positive self talk.

During my second year my counselor recommended I begin going to group counseling. This was extremely powerful for me for a lot of reasons, most notably because I’ve had horrible anxiety in group settings since elementary school and it really negatively impacted my ability to build friendships. Entering into a controlled (our group was closed, meaning it had a finite start and end date, the members in the group were the same every week, and if you missed more than once or twice you were no longer a part of the group, no new members were ever added) safe place. I would still see my individual counselor at the same time, which was important as I worked through a lot of my social anxiety and thoughts.

Once group therapy completed, I began going to the biofeedback lab in the counseling center. Basically electrodes were attached to my skin and I wore a finger sensor which would monitor my physical response (heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, sweating, muscle activity, etc.) as I would go through modules on this computer system specifically designed to help people relieve stress. I would do things like have to breathe “normally” to get the balloon across the screen without popping it (if I breathed to heavy it would burst, if not enough it would fall to the ground). During these exercises I finally started to realize that I did not breathe like other people. Due to the trauma as a child and young adult, I began to either hold my breath or hyperventilate. To this day I have difficulty sometimes, but I understand what is happening which helps.

At some point during college I began going to the gym with a friend which was really helpful in teaching me how to work out “normally” (I have an addictive personality and would go to extremes with working out in high school), she would take me around the gym to work on different muscle groups and get 30 minutes of cardio in. I started to feel the benefits of a healthy workout as I began taking care of my mind and body.

At some point I tried yoga, boy I could probably do an entirely different post on mental health and yoga alone! Over the years I’ve learned so much about the pros and cons of yoga on our mental health and how different types of yoga can effect our nervous system and mental health in different ways. In short, if you are someone with anxiety or trauma, stay the hell away from hot yoga and bikram yoga for sure (in my opinion… science backs it up too; but you will have people that swear by it).

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Other forms of yoga can either be really helpful, or hurtful if you don’t know what’s going on. Sometimes certain poses when held for long periods of time (in Hatha, Yin, or Restorative yoga) can lead our bodies to having very primal and emotional responses. This is okay (and even good for you to work through the response), it’s just weird if you don’t know what’s happening then you start crying or having flashbacks to trauma in yoga. In short, you probably should look for a yoga class that has moderate activity, and constantly has the teacher talking to anchor you into the present, here and now. Remember the most important thing with yoga and anxiety, is to connect every movement to the breath, not push yourself into uncomfortable places to land every pose perfectly.

Over the last five years it’s been a combination of using all of the above, while earning my Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. I think having an understanding and awareness of what is happening or coming up for ourselves during anxious or depressed spells if very important.

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When we have that awareness we can talk ourselves through the experience as well as communicate it more effectively to those around us. For example, do you like or dislike to be rubbed, held, or left alone during a panic attack? When you are starting to get worked up what positive statements can be made to bring you back to the present rather than projecting and spiraling the situation? How do you feel supported during tough times?

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Remember that while anxiety and depression often have a chemical imbalance associated with them, they are often symptoms of other things happening in our lives which we can develop the skills and tools to work through.

Do you have any questions or experiences about coping with anxiety? Drop me a comment!


Want to learn more about positive self talk? Grab the worksheet!

 

Photo Cred: Lauren Louise

 

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  • allie blaising

    Just casually stalking your posts again–I can really relate to so much of what you posted here!

  • I used to keep quiet about my anxiety but I’ve learned more and more that so many people around me are experiencing the same things and I’ve found it so helpful to just be honest about it all! It’s awesome to see ways other people manage their anxiety. Gives me ideas as to what I can do when I’m having an attack.

  • Brooke Pollard

    Anxiety is definitely tough to cope with, but you made some great points. I agree that positive self-talk is SO important.

  • Daria Vinning

    This is a very informative post. I’ve found that when I become anxious, working out works for me. Sometimes, I can’t get away to do so, so I rely on other techniques to help me calm my mind, body and soul. Thanks for sharing!

  • Yoga and exercise in general really helps me deal with anxiety. I feel like I have it more so when I do not feel good and confident about myself, so when I am eating healthy and working out, I feel so much less anxious and a lot more calm and at ease, even when in the most stressful situations.

  • Rachel, I really loved reading what’s worked for you; I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life so I really related to this post. The idea of group therapy still makes me incredibly nervous, but I like how UF had/has it set up for a controlled group. I think that would help me over time.

    • Yes! I highly recommend a closed group. You go in with the same people and are with the same people at the end. It really allows you to get comfortable and feel safe. The rules are very clear and it really helps since you’re not in this controlled environment of just you and a therapist, but also having to learn other POV (more realistic to life).

  • mckenna bleu

    Anxiety is common but no fun. We just have to remember to take each day as it comes and try not to worry about things we can’t control.

  • Nicole Leith

    What a powerful post. I’ve learned so much from my mindfulness counseling. It was hard to take seriously at first, but I really find it quite useful now. I’m a huge advocate of therapy.

  • I don’t have general anxiety but I feel like I definitely experience a bit of social anxiety because I really am horrible at meeting new people and it takes me forever to warm up to them.

  • Thena

    Thank you for your post. Anxiety is so hard, and so unexpected at times. I wish you strength along your journey. <3

  • Stephanie Parrell

    Great post! I have found that mediation has helped me a lot with my own anxiety. Being in tune with your mind and body certainly helps you understand and cope with what is going on within. Yoga is something I need to get back into.

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    This was the first post I ever read from your blog. Loved it then and love it now! I actually passed this post on to my sister who deals with anxiety who is at UF. She has taken advantage of the one on one counseling. I love how real you are and how you don’t sugar coat it. Also, that black and white photo of you and your hubby, amazing!

  • I know a few people who struggle with significant anxiety and it is so hard on them. I’m glad you’ve worked your way into a healthy lifestyle. These photos are amazing.

  • Trish

    This was a timely post for me, as I am having some issues with anxiety right now. I found your comments about yoga very interesting. I have often wondered if practicing yoga daily would help me with anxiety. I tend to have hot flashes with anxiety and hot yoga or Bikram would definitely not be a good match for me.

  • Heather Hillman

    Going to therapy was life changing for me and I am a huge advocate that everyone should give it a try. It teaches you so many things about yourself and skills to be a better person and friend! Love seeing people be vulnerable to help remove the stigma.

  • Courtney Drew

    I have family members who go through this and its so tough. I am so glad that you found a way that works for you!

    xo
    Courtney Drew

  • I think everyone suffers to a degree from anxiety but the key is realizing it’s GOING to happen and being able to talk yourself ‘away from the edge’ before you tip over.

  • My anxiety has been intense lately, and I have been revisiting some of the methods that have worked for me in the past: journaling, running, yoga and long baths. I’ve also been using the Headspace app to try to meditate again. It’s tough to get back into meditation but it’s helpful.

  • Kristine Circenis

    For one who also suffers from anxiety, I appreciate this post. When my anxiety is at it’s worst I shut off all ‘extra’ things as possible and focus on me. I go to the gym, the pool and cook. I find ways to calm myself down and get to a mental space where I can open a dialogue with myself and handle it as heads on as possible.

  • Wow this is so informative and touching. I have only just started to experience anxiety and spoke to my doctor about it. He did give me medication but I really don’t like how I felt when on them. Very spaced and zoned out. I am currently trying meditation, yoga and exercise to help me.

  • Katherine

    This is such a powerful (& personal) post, and I appreciate it so much because this year has brought me more anxiety and depression than I’ve ever known in my life. I’m trying to find ways to feel like myself again, but it’s a daily battle. Exercise used to be such a huge therapy for me, but I didn’t even realize it until I completely lost all motivation to work out. I’m slowly trying to work that back into my lifestyle while making a point to understand what’s going on when I’m having harder days. I think acknowledging the fact that I was facing these obstacles was half the challenge, so now I’m trying to find what works best for me.

  • Anxiety is so common and more people should realized that there are ways to make it better. I don’t suffer from it in particular. But I know someone who would love reading this.

  • Um I am so mad I was unaware of having counselor sessions included in my tuition. I really screwed that up. I am experiencing anxiety more and more now as an adult and this is so helpful to read.

  • This is such a powerful message! Depression and anxiety run in my family and I dealt with a lot of it in middle and high school. Working out helps me a TON and I almost never go a day without some kind of physical activity since it keeps me so grounded. Love this post!

  • Thanks for talking about this! I feel like it’s spoken about, but not at a personal level with someone that’s had a journey with dealing with mental health and gotten through it.

  • This was wonderfully written. And I’m so happy that you felt comfortable to share this experience. I promise you are helping a ton of people–far more than you realize. I also appreciate the insights you shared on what has worked for you.

  • I have a close friend that really suffers. It comes and goes but it is such a struggle for him. It took him a long time to open up about it, but I think now it helps to have someone to talk to about it.

  • Audrey Knizek

    The biofeedback lab is so interesting; i’ve never heard of anything like it. I have anxiety as well, and I know how tough it can be sometimes. I’m glad you’ve been able to get help and find coping mechanisms that work for you.

  • Anxiety can be soooo tricky! I experience a lot of anxiety, but it tends to be very facilitating for me. I really try to turn that anxiety into something useful for myself and it really helps. I know some people can’t, but I feel blessed to be able to manage it that way!

  • Allison Ellzey

    I’ve never been to a counseling session, but see how it could be beneficial! My sister is getting her masters in Psychology!

  • Anna Hubbard

    Powerful post, Rachel! I like how you mentioned to take advantage of the on-campus counseling services because my friend did that and it helped her a whole lot!

  • I think it’s so amazing that college’s offer free counseling. For my brief time in college, I totally took advantage of that. For me group therapy increases my anxiety and I’ve had more than one panic attacks so I’ve tabled it and just do one on one therapy for now.

  • Amanda Faber

    I loved this post. Any tips on dealing with feeling overwhelmed? I have so much going on in my life and if it’s not all done I get anxiety even if it can wait a few days to get completed

  • Such a great post! I love how open you are. I come from a background of anxiety and manic depression. I got really depressed after my mom passed…but working out pretty much kept me out of the darkness and definitely have a supportive partner.

  • It’s so great that your counselors in college advocated for you so that you could continue to see them. This has such helpful information for people who are dealing with anxiety. Yoga can be so helpful, I think. The movement and taking that time to breathe and stretch is so beneficial. Awhile back I went through a tough period and took some belly dance classes with a friend. My friend ended up dropping out, but I continued. My teacher really enjoyed working with me, because I pick up choreography quickly, so she ended up giving me private lessons. Once the session that I had signed up for ended, I’d meet her at her house a couple times a week and we’d work through different things. That was so much fun and it really helped me get through that period.

  • this was an amazing post. I don’t struggle with the same problem ongoing, but i think everyone deals with anxiety in one way or another. thanks for sharing this

  • I love therapy but I’ve never gone to group therapy. I have a friend who swears group therapy was SO powerful and really life changing for her. It makes me want to try it at some point in my life.

  • Thanks for sharing. I’ve been experimenting with different ways to cope with my anxiety as well. I used to think it sounded so overrated to say “learn how to breathe” but it really does make a huge difference. I just started yoga back up again last week, so I hope that helps.

  • I’ve found just being more in tune to my own mind and body to be insanely helpful. We underestimate how powerful that is – to just check in with ourselves!

  • I have anxiety & depression. My doctor told me at first to practice meditation when it comes to coping with anxiety. I also did yoga but after a few months of doing that it didn’t help so I decided to get medicated. I have no shame on it.

  • Ash Neverson

    Wow. What a great post. I always try to read stuff like this because I think it’s so brave to share your story with others. Great tips on how you coped too and I hope this will help others!

  • Ashley Vickney

    This is such a great, powerful post Rachel! Thank you for sharing this with us! I haven’t experienced this personally but did watch a close friend go through it. When i start to get anxious due to a situation I’m in, I definitely turn to yoga and spending some alone time with a good book. But i know that it’s different for everyone!

  • Adriana

    I think talking things out helps more than we know – it seems uncomfortable, but it DOES help. This is going to help so many people! xo

  • Kaitlyn Fickle Killebrew

    I prefer to talk it out when anxiety gets the best of me! Sometimes just another person’s perspective can make such a difference!

  • I love this post Rachel! Thank you for sharing parts of your life and helping others find the help they need. I also used to go to the counselor when I was in college. The college environment and stress was getting to me and my anxiety was beyond insane. Going and talking about everything helped a lot.

  • This is a great post. I wish I held some insightful advice to share. Thank you for being so open about this.

  • Macarena Ferreira

    Thank you so much for sharing this! My sis is at UF and is having trouble coping with a few personal issues, so I’m totally letting her know to check out the counselors at school!

  • Tori Dunlap

    Love your authenticity and openness here. Mental health issues shouldn’t be stigmatized, and the more we talk about it, the better it gets.

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