Friday, July 11, 2014

7 ways to cope in times of overwhelming anxiety

If you’ve read my blog posts this week, you know that it has been a very anxious time of late.
But even during the bad times, we can still learn or be reminded of what we’ve learned in the past.
I decided right away that I was not going to get down. And I took some steps in self-care that I believe helped me navigate new territory.
Before I go into those, though, I want to thank you for your kind words, your understanding, your caring, and your presence. Thank you so much, dear readers, for supporting me during a bad time, for reminding me that I am not alone.
And I can’t say enough about my husband. His quiet presence and his open heart are treasures for which I can never be grateful enough.
Here are some of the ways I’ve coped:

Fun reading
I’ve divided reading into two categories. The first one I call fun reading. It’s reading that you don’t “need” to do. It’s not meant for self-improvement. It’s for entertainment, enjoyment. It’s for fun.
During times when I didn’t want to think about any real-life problems, it was a pleasure to turn to reading mysteries. I read Storm Prey, by John Sandford (one of my favorites).
Now I’m reading a book called The Faithful Spy, by new-to-me author Alex Berenson. It’s wonderful. And I’ve found a new author to follow.

Helpful reading
This kind of reading is for self-improvement, though, of course, enjoyment is also part of the experience.
I got out my copy of Mindfulness for Beginners, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I previously studied part of the book, but never finished. I started over and have gained a lot of insight into the ways our minds work and the relationship between our thoughts and reality.

Mindfulness meditation
I turn to mindfulness meditation when I try to focus my thoughts. I increased my practice in order to deal with the swirl of thoughts and feelings that were negatively affecting my moods and quality of life.
Right now I am using the CD that came with the book by Kabat-Zinn I wrote of above. It’s helpful for me right now to have a voice leading me into the meditation.

Writing is so natural for me, something I turn to in just about every situation. I wrote down some of the thoughts I had that scared me, that made me feel especially sad and guilty. A lot of what I wrote will probably never see the light of day. But just getting the words down gave them a safe place to rest, out of my constant thoughts.

I’ve had a difficult time falling asleep lately. I’ve found that listening to certain music helps quiet my mind.
For times when I’m trying to relax, it’s better for me to listen to instrumental music with no words.
My favorites are Lifescapes’ “Meditations: Native American Flute” and Yoga Journal’sPure Relaxation.”

I started doing this almost by accident and found that it helped me relax.
While listening to one song on “Pure Relaxation,” I started visualizing being on a boat in the ocean, right at sunset. It was almost like I was watching a movie that I was adding details to. I imagined Larry and me on the boat, the wind blowing our hair. I could see the lights on shore. The stars were starting to come out. It was a beautiful time.
With the next song, I imagined being in a cabin at night with Larry and Chase Bird. Snow was falling. We sat in chairs by the fire, reading. Then we turned off the lights so we could see the snow falling outside. Chase Bird sat on my lap for a while, then on Larry’s. We were quiet and at peace.
Now when I hear those songs, I am immediately in those places, either on the boat or in the cabin. I have found myself smiling in the dark as I visualize.

Playing with my cat
You knew I would mention Chase Bird, didn’t you? Playing with him takes me out of myself. I laugh at his antics and stay busy chasing the toy that he bats back with amazing strength and agility.

Chase Bird guarding the treat bags that he knocked off the table.

What ways do you cope with overwhelming anxiety? Please share.


  1. Great list! I'm glad youare taking care of yourself. Its so easy to just shut down or go on autopilot when things are overwhelming. You almost have to be deliberate about these things, in a way.

    I'm actually working on a post about my own self care and coping with overwhelming emotions. Hopefully it'll be up soon!

  2. This is a great list of strategies - I find that I use so e of them, myself (reading, writing). Kudos to you for finding positive ways to work through the anxiety that comes with stressful situations. You've had quite a lot to deal with and I'm so glad you're finding ways to cope that work well for you.

  3. Oh Tina I admire how you look for ways to cope and generously share those ways with others while you are dealing with so much right now.. You are very generous and wise and I too use most of these techniques. I also like to burn those never see the light of day writings. Take care my friend and have a nice weekend with you wonderful husband and Chasebird.

  4. writing things out sometimes helps me, too. even if i turn around, read them and shred them. and my pets ALWAYS make me laugh.

  5. All of these activities work very well. These activities can make a big difference. I don't have anything to add to the list.

  6. I'm glad you've found some healthy coping methods.

    Pierce has been complaining of having thoughts that won't stop. I've been downloading some meditation and guided relaxation podcasts for him. Hoping they will help!

  7. These sound like good ways to keep it together. I should write some of those down for when bad things happen. I'm glad you are finding that these help!

  8. Your on the right track!! I often need meditation and quiet time!!

  9. These are all great ways to cope with anxiety! And I practice many of them. I do a lot of fun reading, and sometimes I get into helpful reading. Visualization is something I discovered many, many years ago, and it's extremely helpful. One book you might find really interesting is: Creative Visualization by
    Shakti Gawain. A very good read!

    Music has always played a huge role in my life, and is a definite way for me to relax. Gardening also has tremendous benefits as do long walks. But my greatest form of relaxation is photography. I am completely focused when I'm practicing it; it's a form of meditation.

  10. Tina, I think you are amazing, using all those techniques to help yourself. For me, exercising and moving help rid me of anxiety.............I hope each day is better and better for you/

  11. Tina, your resilience is wonderful to behold...and will benefit so many other people.

    For me, being outdoors is the best cure for anxiety. When I go out and tinker with my garden, all my troubles dissipate. I practice most of the techniques you describe in your post, since I have a tendency toward high levels of anxiety, but there's nothing like eating some fresh blueberries straight off the bush to calm me down!

  12. Thank you for this post -- very helpful!!


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