Anxiety, help I’m drowning!

Anxiety, help I’m drowning!

Anxiety can feel all-consuming. It can feel like you are in the middle of the ocean, struggling to keep your head above the water as waves continuously crash over you.

Anxiety, help I’m drowning!

Anxiety can feel relentless, and at times, it may feel impossible to manage. If you’re struggling to cope with your anxiety, you may relate to:

  • Panicking at the first sign of your anxiety. Your heart races, you feel hot… you start to panic thinking your anxiety is back.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and ‘out of control’.
  • Trying very hard to ignore or avoid your anxiety.
  • Fearing you are going “crazy”.

When you feel like you’re drowning in anxiety, help from a psychologist can improve your coping skills and reduce your symptoms.

Here are some tips to get you started:

#Tip 1. Learn and practise a breathing exercise.

Anxiety is a physiological response (heart racing, sweating, feeling hot, muscle tension, etc.) triggered by the brain, which is interpreted as a threat in the environment. By doing the opposite with your body – that is slow deep breathing combined with muscle relaxation – the body can tell the brain “slow down, all is ok”. This essentially flicks an “off switch” in the brain, which slows down the physiological anxious response of the body.

Breathing exercises also stop feelings of panic, which occurs when you hyperventilate.

There are lots of good breathing exercises on the Internet, but my favourite is:

  1. Hold your breath for 3 seconds on the in-breath
  2. Allow muscles to relax on out-breath
  3. Repeat until calmer

*Note: it’s normal to notice your heart racing when you hold your breath but keep doing this exercise until you feel calmer in your body. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, holding your breath for 2 seconds may be more suitable.

#Tip 2. Remember the experience of anxiety itself is just a feeling.

Anxiety can feel like you are losing control or that you are going “crazy”, but are you really?

Check-in with yourself:

  1. Have you actually done anything “crazy”? E.g., ran down the street screaming, or started smashing things?
  2. Are you out of control? E.g., swerved across the road whilst driving, or saying any thought that comes to your mind?

Of course, anxiety impacts daily life, but it doesn’t take away your control. While you may feel like you’re losing control, anxiety does not take away your ability to make decisions.

#Tip 3. Ask for help.

There is a lot of support and anxiety help in Melbourne for people experiencing anxiety. Perhaps start with your GP, or make an appointment with a psychologist directly (read How to Find a Good Psychologist in Melbourne for tips). If you can’t afford a private psychologist, consider a bulk billing psychologist or a trainee psychologist at one of the universities in Melbourne. ADAVIC also run some good support groups, which allow you to meet and seek support from other people struggling with anxiety.

There are some amazing mobile apps out there too. My personal favourite is MoodKit. The Thought Checker component of this app allows you to work through your anxious thoughts. Note, don’t use this component of the app if you are worrying constantly, as using the Thought Checker becomes a type of ‘reassurance seeking’ that is unhelpful (read Anxiety: What Makes it Worse?). Finally, two great mindfulness apps that help you integrate peace into your life and teach you coping skills for dealing with anxiety are: Smiling Mind and Stop, Breathe & Think. Both apps are free, user-friendly, and practical.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?

We are a team of warm and professional psychologists in Melbourne, who are experienced and trained in helping individuals overcome anxiety. We use CBT therapies (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Anxiety) among other types of evidence-based therapies. If you would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.

To read more about how everyday anxiety can turn into something more problematic see Sneaky Anxiety: How Anxiety Creeps Up. Or if you’d like to understand anxiety better, see Five Misconceptions About Anxiety. Or if you’re interested in better understanding panic attacks and how to stop them see Freaked by Panic and How to Stop a Panic Attack. If you experience a more subtle undercurrent of anxiety, you may be interested in better understanding The Subtle Symptoms of High-functioning Anxiety.