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January 27, 2020

How to Cope with Anxiety by Being Present

How to Cope with Anxiety by Being Present

Tips from Westmed’s Behavioral Health Experts

Good mental health is as important as bodily health, but we often ignore signs that we may need some support. You are not alone if you have to deal with anxiety from time to time.  Often when you are in the throes of anxious thoughts it’s hard to break the pattern and become mindful about your surroundings and reality.  Westmed’s behavioral health team shares some short term pointers to help you be more present in those tough moments and some long term strategies to deal with anxiety over time.

Calming Anxious Thoughts in the Short Term:

    • Meditate – “Meditation is often helpful in temporarily dealing with severe anxiety such as thoughts of impending doom,” says Dr. John Wang.  Learning how to slow your breathing and clear your thoughts are techniques anyone can learn and you can get better at it with consistent practice.
    • Use Your Support Network – according to Wang, another coping mechanism is engaging your support system such as friends and family.  Often people find relief in being able to vocalize their thoughts to others and come up with a plan to overcome them.
    • Expressive Writing: Westmed LCSW Sandy Marantz, PhD says, “Expressive writing eases stress and improves overall emotional grounding which then enables you to be more relaxed. An excellent stress reducer is actually writing about the people, places and things that cause you stress. Make a list of these events and then practice writing letters to these toxic events, as a way of rooting them out of your mind. A therapist may also facilitate your releasing toxic thoughts by throwing these letters out and shedding the stressor.
    • Deep Breathing – Studies have shown that deep breathing can help to calm your brain and regulate blood pressure. If you’re feeling particularly nervous or anxious, focus on slow, steady breathing and you will find yourself calming down.

Long Term Tips for Managing Your Anxiety:

If you are managing more serious anxiety and feel yourself struggling with rapid breathing, restlessness, or a persistent feeling of impending danger, panic or doom, we have some tips for managing these feelings in the long term:

Dr. Melinda Massoff, Psychologist at Westmed Medical Group says, “Intrusive thoughts about a bad thing happening such as a death or an accident can be troubling, but you would be surprised by how common they are. Most people are able to disregard them, but when they are unrelenting and debilitating, they could be symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder.”

If your anxious thoughts are persistent, you can work with your therapist to learn to recognize when you have distorted thinking that is creating problems for you and together reevaluate your thoughts with a more grounded perspective. Therapists can also help you to use problem solving skills for coping when you’re feeling challenged or stressed and help you gain confidence in your own abilities to handle problems or situations that can give you anxiety.

Dr. Massoff shares some literature that can help you too, “The Worry Cure by Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D., When Panic Attacks, by David Burns, MD and Feeling Good by David Burns, MD. David Burns’ Feeling Good podcast is also great.”

If you feel you need some help managing anxiety, Westmed’s behavioral health team can be there to lend support.