Are you in your feels about the recent Supreme Court ruling? Do you have strong opinions about our nation’s involvement in overseas affairs? Maybe you struggle with the need for parades for LGBTQ+ members or you have concerns about gun control laws as it pertains to your children’s education institutions? While these are all important issues, their controversial matter can spark anxiety for many. And if you’re one of those individuals, don’t worry, we won’t be discussing any of those topics today. But…because we know that the aftermath and constant conversation of current events can often trigger unhealthy responses in our bodies, we do want to talk about THAT!
So, lets first discuss what anxiety may look like in our bodies—physically, emotionally, and mentally—so we can act on it before it becomes bigger than we feel like we can handle.
Physical traits of anxiety—This looks like body soreness, aches or fatigue and can be felt in the form of a headache, or tension in the neck or shoulders. You may also experience an increase in your heart rate or palpitations that can either be felt from within your body or by placing your open palm against your chest or a decrease in ease of breathing. Sometimes individuals experience sweating or hot flashes. Others will notice trembling or shaking usually in their hands, but sometimes in their legs (ie. bouncing or swaying) as a subconscious response.
Emotional traits of anxiety—This looks like excess amounts of worrying, sadness, or even anger. If you recognize you are more sensitive or touchy than usual, chances are you could be carrying around anxious thoughts and not even know it.
Mental traits of anxiety—This looks like overthinking about tasks that are often completed on “autopilot”. You may also find yourself struggling to focus or complete tasks.
Ok, so you’ve determined that the information you’re inputting into your body is causing anxiety. Now what do you do? Not everyone will respond to anxiety the same way, and for that reason, we’re lucky that there is a whole variety of tools to try.
Grounding Techniques. Grounding techniques are therapy tools that allow us to refocus on the current moment, and not whatever is happening in the world at that moment.
5-4-3-2-1 sensory check (identify 5 things you hear, 4 things you see, 3 you smell etc.)
Breathing exercises (breathe in for 8 counts, hold, then out for 6 then repeat alternating the count for in/hold/out)
Move your body! Stretching is a great way to connect with your body
Create a baseline inventory checklist. Often what can help us recalibrate our emotions is knowing that we’re overreacting about something. Have a list of the topics that don’t bother you, things that are slightly inconveniencing, things that will make you frustrated at the moment but you can work through quickly and then those things that will make your blood boil and when you’ll need extra assistance. This list can look different for everyone, so don’t use this as a comparison task but rather as a spectrum for when you next notice your anxiousness to determine how to best respond.
Get up and MOVE! Yes, stretching is a great grounding technique, but it can also be used to detach from anxiety-producing topics. Believe it or not, for every 1-2 hours spent sitting our bodies need 1 hour of standing. This will look different for everyone based on their daily schedules, but make sure you’re cognizant of how often you are standing, stretching, walking etc. For some, starting their day walking the dog helps get their day off on the right foot. Others use working out at night as a way to decompress from the day. Do what is best for YOUR body.
Drink water. One of the best things for our bodies, especially in the summer months when more time is spent outside, is to drink plenty of water. The suggested average daily water intake is 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for most men, and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for most women. Sadly, coffee doesn’t count towards the water consumption and actually dehydrates our bodies, requiring that we drink MORE water.
Take breaks from technology, news, and social media. We recognize not everyone can completely remove social media or news outlets from their everyday—and we’re not suggesting that. Rather, be mindful of using these tools in moderation. Maybe for you, moderation looks like not looking at your phone for the first and last hour of your day. Try using the do not disturb settings and leave the phone in the kitchen overnight. Or maybe you need to utilize the timer settings to limit the amount of time you can have access to an app per day. If notifications are anxiety producing, try removing all notifications from your phone. Experiment with different ways to loosen the tight grip you have with your phone/computer.
Confide in your close friend group. This doesn’t mean share your opinions on Facebook for 760 people to judge and comment on (do we have to talk about the unhealthy action of PWA—posting when angry?). Text the 2-3 people that you know will help hold your thoughts safely in that moment. These should also be the people that you feel confident will kindly tell you when you may be anxious (when you don’t know it), and the people that can help hold that with you too. It’s okay to let some people in, friend! We promise.
Bring these thoughts with you to your next counseling appointment! We won’t offer our opinions on the topics or be able to dialogue with you about what “should” be, but we can help you recognize, identify, and reduce your anxiety levels. If you don’t currently have a trusted therapist, call us! You can reach Cutting Edge Counseling at 847-306-6477 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for your free 15 min call!
We’d love to help you on this mental health journey!
Similar to the amount of ways anxiety can be experienced or expressed, there are just about the same infinite ways of how to best handle trigger and anxious responses from reading/hearing/engaging in conversations about current events. Remember to give yourself space and grace as you try different tools to best handle your unique responses.
Ally Bremer, LCSW