How to Cope with Anxiety When Your Coping Skills Don’t Work
It happens to all of us at some point. You have well-developed strategies, or coping skills, that you use daily to help you manage your stress or anxiety, and then something happens and you’re not able to use your usual coping skills. What to do then? Your anxiety is starting to spiral out of control, you become more irritable and snappy with your colleagues and family, and you just know you’re getting grumpier by the day. Whether something happened like an injury, a pregnancy or medical issue, family obligations, or a pandemic that cut you off from your regular coping skills, it’s thrown you into a whirlwind. The question is now, how to get out of it so you can manage your daily life again?
Start with Where You’re At
Instead of lamenting the situation and wishing for what cannot be again, practice becoming content with where you are at right now. Maybe you can’t go on a 5-mile run every day like you’re used to anymore, or have the time to cook a from-scratch healthy dinner every night for your family. You are likely frustrated, to say the least, about your change in situation. Instead of ruminating about the unfairness of life and perseverating about why you cannot do what you love anymore, take a few moments (or longer!) to recalibrate and let go of your frustrations. Ground yourself in the moment, and realize that you might be starting anew with developing some (hopefully) temporary coping skills for your anxiety to replace those that you lost.
Substitute with a Similar Alternative
When I hurt my knee and was unable to do my thrice weekly weight workouts with a trainer, instead of scrapping our entire workout we altered my workout to fit what I can still do. Instead of a full body workout for an hour, I do just an upper body workout for 30 minutes. I then use the other extra 30 minutes to stretch, do my knee exercises, and warm-up and down. I don’t get the exact same benefit of my original workout, but the substitution of a half workout still helps me manage my stress and mood. Just make sure you don’t abandon everything you’ve worked hard to build up and neglect doing any strategies to help manage your stress and anxiety, because then you’ll be back where you were before all of your hard work and your anxiety will likely increase again.
Make a List of Alternatives
Another way to approach your lost coping skill(s) is to make a list of alternative strategies that either have helped you manage your anxiety in the past or that you’d like to try in the future. There is no one-size-fits-all list of coping strategies for anxiety management. A lot of finding what works for you and your unique situation and needs is simply trial and error. Interested in trying journaling but haven’t yet had time? Or maybe you’re wanting to get into an activity or hobby you did when you were younger but stopped doing at some point. Just take 10 minutes to jot down all types of possibilities for things that can help to manage your anxiety, then choose one or two to focus on at a time.
Anxiety Management is a Process
Finally, realize that managing your anxiety is not a once-and-done task. It is a process that takes time, continual effort, and ongoing maintenance. Just as with any issue that you’ve had for many years, your anxiety management program may need a touch up every now and then. Maybe yesterday you didn’t need to focus on it so much, but today you might need to set aside extra time and effort to ensure your anxiety doesn’t run away from you. Your anxiety likely took years to develop, so it will probably take years to learn how to manage well.
If you are looking for a touch-up for your anxiety management and would like more information about our anxiety counseling specialists, you can contact us here for a free 20-minute phone consultation. Catalyss Counseling offers both individual and group counseling for anxiety treatment, and all of our licensed and experienced therapists specialize in anxiety treatment using a variety of different techniques suited to your personality and situation. Anxiety management without your primary coping skill is possible and do-able with just a bit of extra effort from you!
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Here at Catalyss Counseling, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Shannon Heers is a psychotherapist, guest blogger, and owner of Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Shannon helps adults in professional careers manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, and grief and loss. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.