Coping Techniques for Anxiety, Depression and Generally Feeling Overwhelmed
At times when we face a threat or a circumstance with unknown (and potentially scary) outcome, its easy for many of us to become anxious and depressed; or generally overwhelmed. The coronavirus pandemic with its rapidly shifting information and seeming lack of solid facts, is such a time for many. As a pastor I talk to many people about fear, depression and anxiety; following are some techniques that I ofter, often council and sometimes use myself:
Be Present. This means focusing on the moment, here and now. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds and exhale slowly for 4 seconds. Repeat this 10 times.
Be aware of your body and your surroundings. Feel your feet on the floor, pressed down. Feel your back on a chair etc.Open your eyes and identify things in the room.
Hold on to something, squeeze a rock or a stress ball.Try to focus on the present instead of letting the symptoms take over.
Take Care of Yourself. You know the drill; less caffeine, more sleep, the right types and doses of medications, healthy foods, exercise etc. Moving around can really help you regroup, if you can walk or stretch.
Have a Plan. Try to prepare ahead of time for the difficult times.Write 3 simple actions on a paper- tape it inside your closet door, or on the refrigerator or in your phone.Making a list of 3 simple actions before you get slammed by the symptoms, helps you to refocus and helps to interrupt the cycle of repetitive thoughts. Examples: brush your teeth, make a cup of tea, and put on hand lotion.Transitions can be difficult- starting or stopping something- so try to make one simple transition- move into another room, take a shower, step outdoors.
Have a comfort item-Find a throw blanket or a fleece sweater or a pillow- some physical object that you can wrap yourself in or hold on to as a means of slowing down and comforting yourself when you are having a hard time.
Create an image or a safe place in your mind- do this when you are feeling good, so that you can remember it when you start having a hard time. You might even look for a photo or draw the image to have something tangible to look at. Imagine a physical location that is soothing, it doesn’t have to be real or a memory. Example: Imagine being on a beach, imagine the sand on your feet, the smell of the air, the warmth of the sun, the breeze, and the sound of the water lapping on the shore. Allow yourself to go to this place of comfort- even if you are in reality standing in a bathroom stall in a restaurant.
Prepare for Possible Triggers:Try to identify situations when the feelings become overwhelming. Try to notice early signs that your body is giving you as a warning. Our tendency is to push the feelings away and to try to deny the symptoms. When we can name it, we can begin to remove some of its power.Have a plan for when the situation arises- when I feel the first twinge, I will-
A. Pull out this paper and go through the list and try these techniques or go to my list
B. I will call, (this person)____ and if they can’t talk I will leave them a message, so I don’t feel so alone.
C. I will have prepared, (this person) ___ so that when I say “when” I need them to help me by _____.
D. I will give myself permission to at least give myself a time out or if possible remove myself from the situation.
Remember What You Know When we can acknowledge the thoughts and feelings then we can remind ourselves that we’ve been here before and we’ll get through it. Remind yourself that God made you and God knew what God was doing- so trust you are worthy of feeling better. You have people in your life who count on you and people you can count on.
Our bodies can only maintain a high level of anxiety for a period of time and then we become exhausted. So this feeling will become less intense soon. Sometimes we can wait it out and use our coping techniques to help it pass.
Being hard on yourself or repeating negative self-messages just doesn’t help. So it’s a waste of energy.
Identify what’s up and put it in its place.Write down the memory or repeating thoughts or fears or feelings. Write it or scribble it –whatever works. Then fold it up and place it someplace secure- a coin purse or tape it behind your dresser etc. This sounds crazy- but what you are telling yourself is that, you will deal with the thoughts and feelings later when you feel better equipped. Denying the feelings doesn’t make it go way, so write it down and put it away for another time.
Faith Support: Come up with a short breath prayer-“God hold me “or “Jesus be my rock”. A prayer that takes no deep thought and that you can say as automatically as you would breathe.You can pour out your feelings in a longer prayer but if you feel stuck try a simple breath prayer and just keep repeating it as you practice slowing down your own breath.
Ask someone to pray for you or with you, if you can contact them.
Have a “go to” scripture verse or words of a hymn or a song- use these as a reminder that God longs for you to feel content and whole.
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
28“ Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
3I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Distract Yourself: When we focus on the symptoms or the situation it can quickly overwhelm us. Most of us can distract ourselves, if we give ourselves permission to let it go.
Call a friend and ask them to talk to you about what’s going on in their life. Play a game, read a book, listen to music, take a walk, garden or watch TV- do something pleasant or mindless to distract yourself.
Another option that works for some people is to shock themselves- wash your face with very cold water, hold on to an ice cube, open the freezer door and breathe the cold air. For some people the change, interrupts the cycle they are experiencing. I prefer being nurturing of yourself but this works for some people.
Looking for a way to cope with stress and keep your body and mind centered?
Try this YouTube channel: A 30 Day Yoga Journey Yoga With Adriene • Gr