I myself have been diagnosed with anxiety and work on managing the symptoms I experience every day. **Warning, Random Tangent Alert: I really dislike the phrase “manage the symptoms”, but we’ll address that later** The way we experience mental health issues, like anxiety, is different for each individual person. I often ask my clients, who mention having a diagnosis or believe that they met the criteria for a particular diagnosis:
What does that mean to you? How does *insert mental health diagnosis here* affect you?
I find these two questions especially empowering for kids. Children’s feelings or thoughts about their mental wellbeing are often overshadowed, or ignored by adults. I’ve found it extremely helpful to have THEM describe what their diagnosis means, how it affects them and perhaps even others around them. That way, I can use their wording, and their examples while we’re working together. The truth is, you’re the expert when it comes to the way that you feel. You know better than anyone else what it is like to be you.
Don’t get me wrong, a person’s individual experience is just a piece of the puzzle when it comes to mental health. I follow the DSM-V, using it as a guide to identify patterns of feelings and behaviors. It’s incredibly useful to help begin to analyze what is going on with a new client when we’re not really sure why, but they’re just not feeling their best.
Ok, so *ugh* managing the symptoms of anxiety that I experience. This phrase just urks me, but it really is the most efficient way to describe how we learn techniques to better cope with the aspects of a diagnosis we can’t change, and strengthen skills to change the aspects we can! I want to share a couple techniques that have helped me keep feelings of anxiety in check.
1. First, a small cognitive technique. I think of anxiety a concept separate from myself. (stick with me here). I, Elizabeth Carr, Human, Business Owner, Metro-Detroiter, Counselor….am not made up of tiny anxiety molecules. At times, I, Elizabeth Carr, feel anxious. It is not a part of me, it is an experience that I have….feelings and experiences are temporary. This means, this too shall pass.
2. I do my best to acknowledge when I’m feeling keyed up, I usually do this out loud…literally saying “I feel anxious, why do I feel anxious” I can’t do anything about something that I don’t realize is happening. I pay attention to physical cues; tense muscles, upset stomach, racing thoughts, pounding heart etc.
3. I take a break, even if it’s just for a minute to take a deep breath and remind myself to focus on one task, the current task at hand. Depending on what is going on that is causing my feelings of anxiety, I may repeat these three techniques sever times in a day…sometimes several times an hour. Check out our blog Strategies for Managing Stress for quick break ideas, and more long term break ideas.
4. I roll with it. I have anxiety, anxious feelings are there sometimes. Anxiety is a feeling, and an experience, and both of those things are only temporary.