In a poll during one of our Villij Talks, 89% of attendees said they had frequent experiences dealing with anxiety. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that the majority of people have encountered some symptom of anxiety—which can range from physical sensations like sweaty palms and nausea to emotional distress. There are, in fact, 11 types of anxiety—for example, PTSD, social anxiety, separation anxiety, and phobias, to name a few.
Toronto-based qualifying psychotherapist, Chantée Dardaine, highlights the importance of recognizing where we fall in the spectrum of anxiety. With over 10 years in the mental health field and managing her own anxieties around flying, Dardaine reminds us that anxiety “does not have to be a bad thing.” She likens anxiety to a smoke detector, an internal alarm system that alerts us to the potential of danger or harm.
The goal, then, would be not to get rid of one's anxiety but instead to find ways of managing symptoms that may arise. Noticing the symptoms of our anxiety requires us to have a good understanding of ourselves; it requires that we get familiar with our emotions, but most of all, that we learn to sit with them.
“Get familiar with your emotions. Learn to sit with them.”
Understanding the things, situations, or thoughts that trigger our anxiety allow us to catch ourselves before we spiral. In doing this, we are able to self-regulate and introduce ways to remind the body that we are safe. A method of self-regulation is what Dardaine refers to as the window of tolerance. Once we become acquainted with our window of tolerance, it becomes easier for us to notice when we are operating outside of it and manage our anxiety.
Here are 5 ways to help cope with anxiety:
Check in with yourself
Using a scale from 1-10, assess and determine your mental wellness baseline. Fluctuations throughout the day are normal, but knowing your baseline will allow you to determine when you may need a self-care tune-up or coping mechanisms to assist your mental wellness.
Cope before the onset
By anticipating which circumstances may cause you to feel anxious, you can pre-plan your favourite coping strategies to implement before the onset of your symptoms.
Sit in your anxiety
Anxiety is our built-in warning system. It helps us deal with stress, danger, and more. Learn to sit in your anxiety, manage your life despite the discomfort, and remind yourself that you are safe.
Challenge your thinking
Just thinking something doesn’t make it true. Avoid justifying unpleasant thoughts; instead challenge them by looking at the bigger picture to get a more realistic and balanced outlook.
Observe yourself from a third person perspective
Step outside of yourself and become your own observer. Ask yourself what he/she needs to feel calm.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that coping is accessible; any intentional action that provides you with a sense of calmness and stress relief can be considered a coping tool. Ask yourself what you need and give yourself permission to follow through with it.
Here are a few additional resources to support you.
- Visit Anxiety Canada for a national directory of mental health professionals.
- A free course based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to help you cope with your anxiety. See this course for children and teens.
- Read this article on self-care tips for dealing with fear.
- This app gives you more tools and action steps to assist with managing your anxiety.
- Watch our Villij Talk with Chantée Dardaine on our Youtube Channel.