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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Injugu

4 Easy Strategies to Manage Anxiety

By Catherine Karega| Updated May 24, 2023

May is mental health awareness month. This year the spotlight is on anxiety. I think it has become quite common to hear someone allude to their anxiety lately, as in “I can’t do that because of my anxiety” or “I was so anxious about talking in front of so many people”. In thinking about teens and young adults, their experience of excessive worry, stress and nervousness is documented in various forms across multiple social media platforms.


One of my major tasks when in therapy with a client is to equip them with easy and manageable techniques that can offer relief when they experience anxiety. A lot of times I use some of these for myself before meeting with a client or before speaking to a group of people. These are great for relieving those nerves that hit you before a big event and to calm you down when you feel overwhelmed with anxious thoughts or emotions.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an intense, persistent, and sometimes excessive worry, dread, or fear about everyday situations. The initial stress you might feel after an event such as job change, school change, death, or a relational issue is warranted. Anxiety develops when the stress festers even after a considerable amount of time has passed after the event.


A teen’s experience of anxiety may be very different from that of an adult and will have an impact on their daily life. They may be nervous before an exam or giving a presentation in front of the entire class. They might be a little afraid if they have to change schools or move to a new place because they have to learn new things and interact with new friends. Teens are also stressed out about their bodily changes and the changes in their relationships with friends.


Self-soothing techniques

Excessive and prolonged symptoms of anxiety tend to impact our ability to function at school or work and may negatively affect our relationships with family and friends. Self-soothing techniques are simple things you can do to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Here are some that you can easily do and that any teenager can learn and implement for relief.


1. Breathing exercises

When we are fearful, nervous or stressed out, we tend to take quick shallow breaths. It’s our natural response that activates fight or flight when we are in danger. This can however create a cyclical effect when we are anxious because we get more anxious, take shallow breaths, get more anxious and then breathe more poorly.

Breathing exercises give us more control over our breath in the moment, which may help us to feel better physically and mentally.

One of my favorite examples is Square Breathing also known as Box breathing.

Check out the instructions for how to do it here.

Tip: You can use a square window for the exercise.


2. Journaling

Whether you are writing a lengthy reflection or just making a quick list of things, journaling can help you process your thoughts and feelings. This also allows you to have a different perspective of what you have experienced.

There are different ways to make a journal entry. Try out some of the following and change your journaling approach as necessary to help maintain your motivation.

  • Make a list

  • Write down gratitudes

  • Write a letter to your future or past self

  • Write a letter to someone

  • Use journal prompts such as the ones described here.

Here is a more specific fact checking activity that you can use when journaling about anxious thoughts . https://www.instagram.com/reel/Csa5B7PqX2r/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==

3. Grounding techniques

Physical grounding can be especially helpful in the moment when you feel your anxiety rising or spiralling out of control. When experiencing anxiety, it can be difficult to control thoughts and emotions. Grounding exercises allow you to refocus your attention back to the present and manage the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Here are some ideas of how you can physically ground yourself;

  • Pick up an object and make observations about it. What is its texture? How light/ heavy does it feel? Does it have edges? What is its color?

  • Place your hands in running water. Notice how the water feels moving over your palms, the back of your hands and between your fingers. Does the water feel cold or warm?

  • Breathe in a favorite scent. This might be a candle, a flower, perfume or an article of clothing. I personally like the scent of coffee, I find it very soothing for me.

Here are some easy grounding techniques you can try and that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine.


4. Exercise

Relax, you don’t have to run a marathon! Gentle movement such as a walk or yoga stretches can help you feel calmer. Exercise releases feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain such as endorphins and dopamine.

Try;

  • A walk in nature or make that next hangout with your friend a walk instead of just watching tv.

  • Swimming

  • Skipping rope

  • Stretches

The goal of the exercise is to offer some distraction from the overwhelming thoughts and emotions at the moment when you are not able to deal with them. After the period of release you may be in a better position to address the issues that are coming up and causing you anxiety.

How to get the most out of all these techniques

Okay these techniques are great but they are not going to start working effectively the first time you try them. Here are a few helpful tips to get the most out of them;

Practice- get used to the exercise before you need to use it. It may take less effort when you want to use it to cope in the moment.


Start early- try doing a soothing exercise when you start feeling bad. Don’t wait for distress to reach a level that is harder to handle.


Keep your eyes open- Avoid closing your eyes since it is easier to remain connected to the present if you are looking at your current environment.


Finally, remember to always seek the help of a qualified therapist to learn more about anxiety and how to address the underlying issues causing you to feel overwhelmed.

By Catherine Karega, MA Clinical Psychology






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