Mindfulness and becoming grounded in moments that you feel anxious about having anxiety can help relieve symptoms.
For some people, anxiety can throw them into a cycle that may be difficult to break. The mere thought of anxiety can possibly bring on even more anxiety. This is due to the fight, flight, or freeze response that naturally occurs to help your body return to safety.
So how do you deal with feeling anxious about being anxious? It begins with bringing yourself to the present moment to help you become aware of thoughts and feelings that may arise, and also give you space to decide how to approach the anxiety you may be experiencing.
Learning how to manage your anxiety in this way can help ease your mind and stop the cycle before it goes too far.
One potential cause of getting anxious about having anxiety is called anticipatory anxiety. This is the overwhelming fear that something may go wrong.
“It’s very common to be anxious about being anxious. It’s part of the anxiety cycle,” says Katherine M. Hayes, a licensed clinical professional counselor, who specializes in children, adolescents, and family systems in Chicago, Illinois.
“Anxiety can be uncomfortable, emotionally and physically,” says Hayes. “Our minds want to avoid that, so we worry about the next time we feel anxious because we remember how it felt.”
The feelings you may experience can occur because of sympathetic activation or the fight, flight, or freeze response such as becoming flushed, having an increased heart rate, or sweating.
If you notice that you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, discovering the root cause of your anxiety can help you find treatment options that best fit your needs.
If you begin to feel anxious, consider taking time to pause and focus on how your surroundings may be affecting your thoughts and feelings. Below are recommendations that can help you bring your awareness to the present moment and cope with anxiety.
When your body gets really reactive and kicks into fight, flight, or freeze, deep breathing helps to slow down your body’s physical reactivity and can help experience some relief. Holly Schiff, a licensed clinical psychologist in Greenwich, Connecticut prescribes her patients the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
You can follow the steps below to practice this technique:
- Find a comfortable position (sitting, standing, or laying down).
- Bring your awareness to the points of your body making contact with the surface beneath you.
- Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of 4 (breathe in until you feel expansion in lower ribs/stomach).
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale through your mouth for a count of 8.
You can do 4 cycles of breathing to help you connect deeper with your body.
This breathing technique helps to promote calmness, relaxation, and it also helps to release anxiety.” It actually relaxes the nervous system and acts as a natural tranquilizer,” explains Schiff.
While the exercise is subtle when you first try it, repetition and practice can help you feel safe in your body over time.
Being mindful means being in the moment. “It helps you to focus on the here and now while intentionally increasing your awareness of what is unfolding moment to moment in your experience,” says Schiff.
Schiff recommends trying a color mindfulness exercise where you focus on color and thought. This technique can help calm your thoughts and focus your mind while distracting you from stress.
These are the steps for performing this exercise:
- pick a color of the rainbow
- set a timer
- think of as many items as possible of the color you chose
Challenge anxious thoughts
Challenging thoughts associated with anxiety allows you to be more aware of certain negative thoughts. You may think to yourself, “No one is eating the food that I brought to the party, they must think I’m a bad cook.” You can challenge these anxious thoughts by questioning them.
Questions you can ask yourself:
- Has the thing I’m worried about ever happened before?
- What evidence do I have that the thought is true?
- What have I done in the past to cope with the same worry?
- What is the probability of it happening?
Consider practicing replacing your irrational thoughts with rational alternatives. With enough practice it can help you manage your anxiety.
Try a grounding technique
If you feel overwhelmed or disconnected from your body, becoming grounded can help you recognize what you’re experiencing in the present. One technique that may help you during an anxious moment is the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise.
Here’s how it works:
- Five. Look around and name five things you see.
- Four. Name four things that you can touch right now.
- Three. Listen and name three things that you hear.
- Two. Note two things that you can smell.
- One. Notice one thing that you can taste.
“Grounding techniques can help to regulate your emotions,” adds Karen Balumbu-Bennett, licensed clinical social worker, practicing psychotherapy in the greater Los Angeles area. This technique will help you become more aware of your surroundings so that you can apply other coping strategies, such as challenging your anxious thoughts.
If you’re anxious about having anxiety, there are various support options that can help you during this time.
Elizabeth Lombardo, a licensed psychologist and bestselling author of the book “Get Out of the Red Zone,” suggests considering help from a professional therapist if you notice that anxiety interferes with your normal day-to-day functioning, such as:
- decreased productivity at work
- changes in social interactions with others
- changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- self-medication to provide temporary relief
- avoidance of situations you fear
If a therapist is not available to you, or you’re unable to fit regular sessions in your schedule at this time, consider the following online resources for additional support:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). They provide links to education and support groups, tips for coping with anxiety disorders, and how to help others with anxiety.
- Mental Health America. Find a list of specialized online and local support groups.
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline. Reach out 24/7 to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for help finding local assistance and support.
If you’re feeling anxious about being anxious, there are coping strategies available, such as, 4-7-8 breathing or color mindfulness exercises. You may also consider discussing the thoughts and feelings you observe with loved ones that can help you to feel safe and comfortable.
If you’ve tried different coping strategies, and still want additional support, consider speaking with a mental health professional. They’ll guide you through coping strategies specific to your needs, and help you discover the root cause of why you may be anxious about having anxiety.
Choose a coping method that best fits your needs. Help is always available for you. You’re not alone.