For some people, the only time they feel anxious is when they are awaiting exam results, the outcome of a job interview, or medical results. For others, such as those with BPD, anxiety can become a regular occurence.
We might feel anxious when someone comes to visit, when we meet up with friends, when we go to the doctor, when we have a meeting at work, when we are ruminating over past problems before trying to sleep, and so on.
Anxiety is a natural human response to when we feel under threat. We experience it through our thoughts and feelings, and with physical sensation.
We may try to deal with anxiety in unhealthy ways, such as drinking alcohol, misusing drugs or binge eating. There are a range of healthy coping strategies you can use to try and manage your anxiety. What works for one person might not work for you, so it’s important to take time to figure out what works for you.
You can write out these strategies on some cards, and keep them nearby, so if you feel anxious you can look through them and see what you feel would help in the moment.
When you are anxious your breathing will become faster and shallower. Try to deliberately slow your breathing, focusing on the rise and fall of your chest. Count to three as your breathe in slowly, hold your breath for three, and then count to three as you breathe out. Keep going for as long as you need to.
Relax your muscles
When we feel anxious we clench our muscle – our jaw feels tight, we clench our hands, we tense up. Find a quiet location to sit. Close your eyes, and scan your body for where the tension is. Then, beginning at the toes, relax each set of muscles until you reach your head. Concentrate on the feel of each muscle tensing and relaxing.
Stay in the moment
Right now, where you are, is the only moment to think about. The past is gone, it’s over, and the future hasn’t happened yet. So right now, stay in this moment. Meditation can help us to focus on the moment we are in.
How you think affects how you feel. When we feel anxious, we are reacting to a perceived threat, and our thoughts can run away. Challenge yourself, think of different interpretations to what is happening and consider the thing making you anxious, rather than jumping to what the worst outcome could be. Look only at the facts, without judgment.
Get to know your anxiety
Keep a diary of when your anxiety is worse, and what caused it. You can then look for patterns, and can proactively manage your anxiety by dealing with the triggers.
Treat yourself like a friend
How would you treat your closest friend if they were feeling this way? Chances are you would be kind and supportive – you wouldn’t tell them they are being silly, that they are over-reacting, or that they should pull themselves together. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend.