Coping with anxiety
You clicked on this link because you are struggling with some form of anxiety. Whether it is the occasional thought that doesn’t sit quite right with you, or perhaps you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Research shows that 1 in 5 women will struggle with their mental health after having a baby. Often, this comes in the form of anxious thoughts. If you are struggling with anxious thoughts, check out the tips below. These tips are rooted in research and based off of evidence based therapies including: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
1. Bring yourself to the present moment (grounding)
Grounding means that when your thoughts or feelings start to take you away from reality, you use techniques to bring yourself back to the present moment. One technique we often talk about in therapy is the 5 Senses Grounding Technique.
When you find that anxious thoughts are taking you away from what is happening in the present moment, try using this technique.
Notice 5 things that you see, 4 things that you hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Take your time being aware of your surroundings and noticing what is going on around you!
If you are a new mom, you may want to try this technique using your baby to bring you back to the present. What do you notice about your babies hair, arms, and fingernails? What colours can you see in your babies eyes? What does your babies skin feel like? Bring yourself back to the present moment by noticing what is going on in your immediate surroundings.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, going through trauma, or going through a big life change, it is normal that you don’t want to feel the big emotions and anxious thoughts surrounding this change all day long. So instead of completely repressing your thoughts, find space in your day for them.
For example, every day after the kids are in bed, spend 15 minutes journaling and reflecting on your day. If during the day an anxious thought comes up, you can acknowledge it, and remember that later in the day you will have time to write about it. When writing about your thought consider these questions:
What words are in my mind?
Are they fact or opinion?
What would someone I trust tell me about this thought?
What would I tell someone I love if they were having this thought?
Is this thought helpful or unhelpful?
Does this thought fall under an “unhelpful thinking habit”?
Can I let this go? If not, what can I do about it?
Research by Pennebaker (2004) has shown that even 15 minutes a day of journalling can help reduce anxious and depressive symptoms. This can be a highly effective technique, and can help you realize that not all of your thoughts are truth.
3. Don’t believe everything you think
Not all of our thoughts are facts! Sometimes things pop into our mind that are completely untrue! These thoughts can hurt others and us. Instead of believing that all of your thoughts are facts, try reframing your thoughts like this: “I am having the thought that….” Take your thoughts captive. Consider if it is truly a fact, or if it is just a thought. Allow yourself to let anything that does not help you go. Read more about this here.
4. Quiet time and deep breathing
Allow yourself to have quiet time during your day. As a culture, we are always immersed into noise. Whether it is listening to music, podcasts, YouTube, or being on our phones. We often don’t let ourselves be in silence. It is amazing how much more clearly you can think after taking some time to be in silence. I encourage clients to try and do this breathing technique during their quiet time (even if you only have 1 minute alone while going to the bathroom – I see you busy mom!).
Research has shown that Yoga and meditation can be also be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. I often use the ‘Calm’ application with individuals I support to help them practice using deep breathing and other calming strategies.
5. Stop your thoughts
It is easy to let intrusive thoughts take over your mind. You may get stuck in a scary spiral of anxious thoughts, which make you feel more anxious, so that you have more anxious thoughts! Something that many people find helpful is thought stopping. This is when you acknowledge your thoughts, reflect on whether there is any truth to them, and redirect them into a more positive direction. Sometimes this means that you need to actually say out loud “STOP” when your thoughts are spiralling out of control so that you don’t slip into that spiral of negative thinking. Read more about how to stop these thoughts here!
6. Reach out to a counsellor
You do not have to struggle with anxiety forever. There are evidence-based therapies that have been proven to help individuals overcome anxiety! If your anxious thoughts are impacting the way that you enjoy your life, please reach out for help.