Managing Anxiety and Stress Between Therapy Sessions
What happens after your weekly session and there’s still the rest of the week to tackle? Whether there’s a big test coming up, you are feeling overwhelmed and overworked at your job, or just general day to day stressors and triggers that come up - we need help identifying which tools assist us with navigating anxiety and stress outside of our therapy sessions. Listed below are some strategies to use in the moment that can help you feel a bit more in control and clear headed. Try them out and see which works best for you! Progressive Muscle Relaxation: It might feel difficult to sit still when we're feeling anxious, but if possible, working through a quick muscle relaxation activity can help us come back to the present moment.
Begin by sitting in a chair comfortably with your feet planted firmly on the floor, concentrating on your body and breathing for a few moments.
Then working from the top of your head, begin squeezing and relaxing your muscles, beginning with your forehead, jaw, down your neck, arms, abdomen, etc. let any distracting thoughts pass without too much focus. This can help relax some of the tension that comes with anxiety and stress.
Grounding Activity: Often when we are in a distressed, anxious state, we need help refocusing on the present moment and ways to distract ourselves from anxious feelings and thoughts and allow them to pass naturally. A great technique to assist with this is by using the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method.
This involves listing five things you hear, four things you see, three things you can touch from where you’re sitting, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Another way to ground is by going for a walk and observing your surroundings, holding something cold like a piece of ice in your hand and focusing on the sensation, or biting into something sour like a lemon.
Mindfulness Apps: Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm are a few popular apps that you can download on your phone, iPad, etc. and have many different options to choose from, including guided meditations that can help navigate and regulate feelings of anxiety and stress.
Tip: Insight Timer offers the most free content which may be more user friendly.
It is helpful to remember that anxiety shows up differently for each individual, and similarly everyone responds differently to the techniques listed above (along with more that aren't listed). Try to be patient and kind to yourself as you try out different tools and determine which is most effective for you.
Megan LaViola, LSW