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Surprising but Effective Ways to Manage Anxiety

There is certainly not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to anxiety management. It is important to be open to trying many different types of strategies, even if they sound odd or silly. It is also very important to know that you need to learn exactly how to use the tools in the right way as if you unintentionally modify it a little, you may end up subtly doing something that perpetuates your anxiety. Here are a few ideas that you can try on your own to help with anxiety management:

Do an ice dive. This is a strategy from DBT to help when you are experiencing any very intense negative emotion. All mammals have what is known as a dive reflex.” When it is activated, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and automatically slows your heart rate and breathing and helps you calm down. The best way to activate this is by dunking your face in ice water bobbing-for-apples style, VERY briefly. Easier and more portable ways to activate the dive reflex is by holding a cold pack over your cheekbones or keeping a gel eye mask in your freezer and putting it on. The idea is not to hurt yourself so pay attention to pain cues and do not keep the cold on your face for long.
Play a word game or numbers game. If you engage in a cognitive task you essentially tell your brain to divert energy away from emotion centers to the prefrontal cortex so that you can think clearly. By engaging in a cognitive task, you trick your brain into helping you feel better.

Practice radical acceptance as it is taught in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and let go of the struggle with your anxiety. By practicing radical acceptance, you are acknowledging the present as it is instead of trying to fight it. This is not the same thing as condoning it or giving up. You are simply stepping back from the situation and telling yourself “Ok. This is the reality of the situation right now.” There are many strategies to practice radical acceptance such as doing a loving kindness meditation or “turning the mind” by continually reminding yourself that everything is as it is rather than allowing yourself to fight reality or continue to stew in your anxiety or ruminate about something. Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance book is a fantastic resource.

Practice worry time. This paradoxical seeming strategy is from CBT for generalized anxiety disorder or difficult to control worry. Designate a time each day when you will sit with or write out all of your worries. Do this at the same time and in the same place, and make sure you keep worrying for the entirety of the time. During the day when worries come up, gently redirect yourself by reminding yourself that you will deal with it during “worry time.”

You may be surprised by what ends up helping the most for you. Remember to try to keep an open mind and see what happens as you try this techniques. They are some of my favorites!