The word “anxiety” has become a catchphrase recently, and is used to mean anything from normal worry to debilitating worry. Anxiety can affect any age, race or economic status­ no one is immune to anxiety, and I am confident in saying that everyone has experienced some type of anxiety in their lives. Let’s first start by defining clinical anxiety and the symptoms associated with it.

Some of the more common symptoms of anxiety are excessive worry (rational or irrational), racing thoughts, poor concentration, restlessness, irritability, and panic attacks. Panic attacks have the potential to look differently per person but increase heart rate, heavy chest, difficulty breathing and sweating are all symptoms. Symptoms can come on within seconds, and sometimes with no warning or triggers.

I bet you are now wondering, “do I have anxiety?” Anxiety is a normal human reaction, and while you probably do have some anxiety, it is probably not clinical anxiety. If you are interested in looking at the criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, grab your closest DSM­5 and check it out (I am not going to take the time to define it here). There are a few quick coping skills I can teach, that will help manage normal anxiety, but if you feel like the anxiety too intense to handle with the skills below, it is time to call your PCP or a therapist (my contact information will be at the end of this blog post)!

Let’s first learn the ABC’s of anxiety…
Affect: Emotionally and physically–what we feel in our body. This is not only the symptoms listed above, but also pressured speech difficulty forming a thought.
Behavior: Behaviorally–what we do or our actions, such as avoiding triggers or seeking­reassurance from others.
Cognition: Mentally–what goes through our mind like worrisome or intrusive thoughts.
Dependence: Relying on others such as family, friends or spouse to calm the anxiety. Anxiety can lead to developing a co­dependent relationship.
Excess and Extreme: A nxiety is a problem when it is excessive and extreme in relation to the situation.
Functioning: How you manage your anxiety each day. Here are a couple of coping skills to try and use when anxious.

Breathing­-Most people tell a person who is upset/anxious to take a couple of deep breaths. While this is helpful, concentrating on breathing and counting create the best combination for relaxing. Take a deep breath in for 8 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, and breathe out for 7 seconds. This is called the 8­4­7 breathing technique, and this is one you can do from your desk or at home without anyone really noticing.

FEEL­–The FEEL method combines logic and compassion for your own feelings.

Freeze­-pause and take some deep breaths ­ try the 8­4­7 breathing. Deep breathing can reverse the nervous system response.
Empathize­-Anxiety is scary. Remind yourself that it is okay to feel anxious, don’t push back on the feelings.
Evaluate­-Think of possible solutions­ decide if this is something that really needs the energy and time to worry about.
Let go­-Allow yourself to be free of the worry by watching the anxiety to float away so you can begin to feel lighter.

It is important to practice these coping skills, as they take time to become a habit. If you feel like you are unable to handle anxiety on your own, it may be time to seek professional help. If you have any questions about anxiety or would like a referral for a local therapist please contact me anytime.

Whitney Thompson, LCPC

Office in Sykesville, MD and Skype/FaceTime appointments are available.

Whitney Thompson, LCPC is a mental health therapist licensed in the State of Maryland. She owns her own private practice, Thompson Therapy and provides therapy in office and online via Skype/FaceTime. The office is located in Sykesville, MD and online therapy is conducted from the comfort of your own home. She has been practicing since 2009, working with children, adolescents, and adults. One of Whitney’s speciality is coping with anxiety and teaching parents to manage their children’s anxiety appropriately. She has presented to many of the local schools about defining anxiety and parenting skills for children with anxiety.