Tips for controlling anxiety
March 2, 2012 6:30 PM   Subscribe

I’ve recently realised that I have a problem with anxiety, and want to develop a “bag of tricks” to help control it. What are your behavioural strategies for controlling anxiety?

Snowflake details:

1. Mid thirties, male, tenured academic, happily married, kids, no money troubles.

2. Anxieties arise in lots of different contexts. It’s varied and unfocused enough that I don’t think there’s a single “thing” that is wrong. It’s much more like generalised anxiety than a specific issue. It never rises to the level of an actual panic attack (not even close really, when you think about how horrific a real panic attack is), but I certainly do get acute panicky episodes that are pretty debilitating. My anxiety seems to be unrelated to my actual competence at the thing I’m nervous about, and only weakly related to my perceived competence. I get just as nervous about things I’m good at as the things I’m bad at. Very recently it’s gotten a lot worse due to an external trigger. My mother died several months ago, and grief is exacerbating the problem. That’s part of what prompted me to start thinking carefully about my anxiety, but it’s not the root cause.

3. I’ve had a long (~20 years) history with depression, long enough to realise that it’s a chronic condition, but I’ve had some sucess in learning to cope. I get by, but acute anxiety often triggers a lengthy depressed mood, which is one of the reasons I want to control it.

4. Habituation / desensitisation is only partly effective. Thoroughly typical example: Giving lectures. I’ve now given hundreds of lectures, to large and small classes, on topics in which I am expert and on topics that I don’t know much about. Nothing has ever gone wrong, my students do very well on their exams, and I get very good student ratings. Knowing that I am good at it and that there is no rational need to be afraid helps a little bit, but no more than that. Even after several years, I get very very very nervous for the hour or so before class, and am shaky and confused with adrenalin for the hour afterwards. The anxiety is not just the “usual” response to public speaking: it’s similar, but those colleagues I’ve spoken to about it do not suffer from this problem to anywhere near the same extent.

What I’m currently trying to do (and how success I’m having)

1. Drink less caffeine (a little success, not much)
2. Drink more peppermint tea instead (some success)
3. Drink less alcohol (tricky, but I’m slowly winning I think)
4. Never work more than a 50 hour week (mixed success)
5. Spend more time with my kid (some success, not as much as I want)
6. Spend time reading things for fun (no luck at all)
7. Spend more time outside in the sunshine (trickier than it sounds: family history of skin cancer, living in Australia)
8. Try to get more sleep (no success so far)
9. Exercise more (no success so far, and no motivation to try)

What I’m looking for

1. Experiences with trying to implement these strategies or similar ones. For instance, what issues did you find when trying to reduce caffeine intake? How did you force yourself to exercise? Etc.

2. Any other behavioural tricks for avoiding the nervousness, that don’t also cause you to avoid doing the things that are scary. If I engage in any more avoidance than I already do I’m going to end up a hermit (e.g., I no longer use telephones, and I’m not convinced that’s a good thing).

What I’m NOT looking for:

1. Suggestions involving therapy, medication, or meditation. In all three cases I have my reasons for not wanting to try them. It doesn't help to suggest these things.

2. Suggestions about goals, cognitive processes, and so forth. Example: “stop being a perfectionist”, or “cut yourself more slack”. It’s true that these are a problem for me, and they’re things I’m working on, but they're not what I'm asking about. What I’m thinking about at the moment are concrete, behavioural suggestions; not cognitive strategies. I’m looking for tips about particular actions I can take, or habits to encourage/discourage.

Thank you in advance to anyone who has any suggestions!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
I wrote this comment about Pema Chodron's "Four Rs" in response to a question about coping with something different, but I've found the technique to be quite useful in dealing with anxiety.
posted by mothershock at 6:49 PM on March 2, 2012

How did you force yourself to exercise?

Your productivity is going to take a hit in the beginning using this technique, but this is what I did: pick a time (for me it was 4pm). At that time, drop whatever you are doing promptly get up and go to the gym and exercise. Then go back to your work. At first you're going to have a problem with this because there will always be something you "need" to finish that can't be interrupted by exercise, but you have to put that work aside. Eventually you will learn how to get your work done beforehand so that you can exercise in mental peace, but you have to habituate yourself to exercising first and figure out how to fit it into your work schedule later.
posted by deanc at 6:54 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

What has helped me:

- B vitamin complex
- Vitamin D3
- Theanine

Stretching & yoga. This is exercise you can do in 10 minutes, perfect for those random small pockets of time in between other stuff.

Reading Pema Chodron .

Laughing. I find the best antidote to a feeling is to induce a feeling that can't possibly coexist with it. It's almost impossible to be anxious and laughing at the same time.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 7:00 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also I HIGHLY recommend quitting caffeine entirely. It has made a huge difference in my general anxiety level, and I rarely have panic attacks anymore.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 7:02 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I found it easier to cut caffeine out entirely than to try to adhere to a "less caffeine" policy. In my case my caffeine delivery system of choice was coffee, so I found a decent-tasting decaf (an espresso shot cut with half and half was especially palatable) and switched to that slowly. And then I ended up dropping coffee entirely, but that's optional.

Also, do you really enjoy peppermint tea? If not there are a lot of other herbal teas that you might like more.

Cutting out caffeine might make it easier to get more sleep. I've never had trouble falling asleep, and I usually limited my caffeine consumption to the mornings, but when I cut out caffeine, a few weeks later I found myself getting better, longer, more solid sleep than before.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:09 PM on March 2, 2012

Regarding your sleep: I have been using a supplement called Natural Calm for a couple of months now. It's just a magnesium powder that you drink before bed. I've struggled with insomnia for years, and this stuff cured me the first night I tried it. I have recommended it to a couple of people and they have had success with it as well. It's inexpensive and well worth trying. I swear it has improved my quality of life dramatically! I can find it at my small town health food store here in the U.S. or on Amazon; I hope it's available in your part of the world.

I also agree with the recommendation to supplement D3 if you don't get much time in the sun.
posted by katie at 7:28 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like fresh ginger tea. I make it very strong and it took some getting used to, but it helps me a lot. For one large mug, I grate ginger(usually a 1/2 - 1" chunk or so) into a pot of boiling water and let it brew for 20-30 minutes, then strain it into the cup. Sometimes I put lemon or lime juice in as well. Some people put in honey.

I drink this daily during periods of higher anxiety - seems like there is a cumulative effect and I find my overall levels of anxiety are lower.

I also buy Yogi ginger tea to drink at work and keep candied ginger around as well.

I admit, I am kind of known for my love of ginger. ymmv
posted by fromageball at 7:28 PM on March 2, 2012

For me the top two things way above everything else are getting enough sleep and avoiding stimulants. Since you've already addressed those two I will say when I am having an acute panic attack it really helps for me to leave wherever it is that I am. If I'm inside then I go outside, if I'm outside I go inside, or I go to a different room, or to my car, or whatever. Sometimes just when I'm outside of that space I find myself instantly relaxing. If my fight-or-flight instinct is being triggered, I think I might be satisfying it by doing that. If you're REALLY panicking sometimes it helps to run when you do this, just leave the room you're in and then run as fast as you can to get as far as you can until you run out of steam. When I've done this, once I've run out of steam, I almost always feel way better.
posted by cairdeas at 8:03 PM on March 2, 2012

I walk a lot to combat anxiety -- not a fast exercise-style walk or a stroll-after-dinner. I walk to a destination I already have planned like the store, to work, to take my kids to school, etc.

Not sure if you are living in a walk-able place. Walking adds some time onto my schedule -- 30-45 minutes to walk somewhere instead of a quick drive, but it is so worth it to me.

I also love to ride my bike. I find driving a car in the heavy traffic exasebates my anxiety, but some people love a long drive.

Good luck!
posted by mamabear at 8:45 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know that you said no meditation, but I as a fallen, terrible, cafeteria, grudging Christmas and Easter Catholic have found saying the rosary very calming.
I find that focusing on the words of the prayers helps me to break out of my anxious cycling through my day. It's like I'm deliberately substituting one cycle for another, one which has a definite beginning and end. After I am done, I am either tired, released, or ready for another round. It's not failsafe: I am occasionally still anxious when finished, or so distracted that I can't finish the round. At this point, I will either try my other method, reading YA fiction that I have read many times before. If that doesn't work, I'm in bad enough shape to seek help in meds.
What I think all of these have in common? Breaking into the obsessive cycles of thought with a deliberate change of internal topic. Repetitive words, including prayer and fiction, have helped me.
posted by pickypicky at 9:15 PM on March 2, 2012

Since I know what some of the things are that help, exercise for one, I don't make it a question of whether or not I will exercise. I have a class. I go. I don't have to think about it.

And this time of year just sucks. Harumph I say, Harumph.
posted by mearls at 9:22 PM on March 2, 2012

I also find that walking a lot/long distances calms me down. Also have been going to acupuncture and trying to 'talk myself out' of getting stressed out. Cliched 'I've got this' etc before walking in to teach a class and so on.

Also I need to sleep a lot or I get anxiety/rage issues.

I guess the main thing is to pinpoint your triggers and just start thinking about what works best for you. If you know you are good at your job and have concrete proof then you need to 'tell yourself' that. Before and after each class.

Everyone says 'meditation' but essentially that just means talking time to calm your whole body and mind down. I used to try to lie down for 20minutes a day (when I was a student and time was more luxurious) until I almost fell asleep just to 'get calm'. So nothing spiritual, just (in hindsight) trying to get my nervous system under control.

I'm still working on it. I would definitely suggest walking as much as possible, quiet time alone, if possible, self-talks and possibly acupuncture.

It's tough, I think some of us are just wound a bit tighter than others and it's work to try to keep the anxiety under control.

Also, if you have a calm spouse, listen to them!

Also, when I gave up caffeine I was totally miserable for about 6mths until I just started drinking coffee again.
posted by bquarters at 9:26 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might consider getting checked for vitamin d. If you are deficient, it can sometimes be difficult to get it up to the right level. I had to take 4000 units a day to get it where it needed to be (the prescription version didn't work for me for some reason), but you should only supplement in that way if you are being monitored as D is fat soluble and you can reach toxic levels. My anxiety is much better now that my D level is normal.

As you probably already realize given that you mentioned exercise, exercise has been shown to be more effective than SSRI's at treating anxiety. For a while I saw a leading therapist in the field and she put it this way: we really just need to burn off the anxiety, quite literally. We weren't built for the sedentary lives many of us live.

I agree with the suggestion to pick a time to do cardio and make it nonnegotiable. Is there a way to make it enjoyable? I buy new workout music on iTunes and only let myself listen to it when I'm working out. If I want to hear those songs, I have to be on the elliptical machine. I also like the mindlessness of repetitive movement. If you don't, could you get into hiking or riding a bike outdoors? Playing some sort of game?

For those moments when the anxiety is acute: you can easily and quickly reduce the amount of oxygen in your system by purposely hypo-ventilating. I do it by breathing in for 4 counts, breathing out for 4 counts and holding on empty for 4 counts. Repeat as necessary. A similar method is to breath in for 7 and out for 11. The key is simply to reduce the amount of oxygen in your system. You will feel your body becoming calmer and with it, your mind. Often when we are anxious, we do not realize how we are breathing, and taking in extra oxygen (preparing for fight or flight as we are programmed to do) increases our anxiety greatly.

You can also burn off some stress hormones before class without getting out of breath by grabbing the bottom of your desk chair and pulling up with all your strength, pushing against a wall, etc.

Practicing a traditional yoga kriya has helped me. Unlike meditation, the focus is on what you do with your breath and body, which helps an unsettled mind.
posted by Original 1928 Flavor at 9:30 PM on March 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

You note that you're not interested in therapy, but you might be interested in the cognitive behavioral therapy tools you can learn from David Burns's books (Feeling Good, The Feeling Good Handbook, etc). It's just mental exercises to shake you when you're stuck in an anxious spiral (as well as certain other types of mental blockage), really. You can get this from an actual therapist but you may not really need a professional, the books are pretty clear about how to reason yourself out of a "stuck" place.
posted by padraigin at 9:32 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a former boss who told me that stress is just your body's way of telling you that you (think you) can't handle something. But you can handle the situations that cause you anxiety and obviously handle them successfully if you are tenured, happily married and conscientiously parenting. You need to keep reminding yourself of that.
posted by bquarters at 9:33 PM on March 2, 2012

In these situations, you are experiencing a battle between your amygdala (the fear center) and the rational prefrontal cortex. It's difficult to handle because when the former is in control, you cannot (literally) think straight.

One very easy thing to try to help your PFC regain control is to either say out loud or to write down on paper (it has to be active not passive) the emotion you are experiencing. e.g. "I am anxious because I fear X". That's all. Doing this helps push your brain back over to the "thinking" side because you are activating the speech and or written-language neural centers. Or as the neuroscientists say: Affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity in response to affective stimuli.

If you decide to try it, I'd love to hear how it turned out. I've suggested this to a few people over the past few years with good results (including my young nephew who was three years old and going through an anxiety attack because he missed his parents).
posted by storybored at 9:52 PM on March 2, 2012 [12 favorites]

I find that broad vistas help me more than sunshine. I mean, they're both nice. But broad vistas really help.

I don't find peppermint to help with anxiety, but I do find chamomile and whatever's in "tension tamer" to help.

My last suggestion is right on the cognitive/behavioral border, but I find facing my fears to help a lot. Like this: "Is that my anxiety rising? Yes. What are you worried about, self? Oh good question, DID I pay my phone bill? What can I do to feel better about this as soon as possible?" *goes online* *checks balance* "Whoops, no I didn't!" *pays* *feels better.* My normal approach would be to avoid facing the subject of anxiety while it grows.
posted by slidell at 11:17 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have struggled with generalized anxiety as well, so I feel your pain. I had an extended bout with it some months back; I was even experiencing anxiety-induced shortness of breath almost daily. I noticed katie above mentioned a supplement containing magnesium to help with insomnia. I'm not familiar with that supplement so I can't vouch for it, but I will absolutely second the recommendation for magnesium.

I began taking a magnesium citrate supplement for other reasons, but I noticed my anxiety all but disappeared very shortly thereafter. An internet search confirmed my suspicion that magnesium really is useful for anxiety (among a myriad of other ailments - it's truly a miracle supplement as cheesy as that sounds). If you decide to try it please be sure to take magnesium citrate, not magnesium oxide which is difficult for the body to absorb.
posted by mhm407 at 3:12 AM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I agree with all of the suggestions above about reducing caffeine, mindfulness/Chodron, exercise, yoga.

In terms of a weird, practical tip that might work for you: I have a roster of comedy podcasts that I really enjoy. They are in no way related to my work or anything else, and they're goofy and fun. That's what I listen to doing errands, working out, commuting to work. If I start to get really anxious about something and my mind drifts, I just re-focus on the fun comedy. Sometimes I use these to fall asleep, too.

So... silly, goofy thing that has helped me relax and NOT focus on anxieties. To be honest, I think Chodron and mindfulness stuff is a better long-term solution, because sometimes I'm just frantically trying to focus on "fun stuff" and just suppressing rather than dealing with the anxiety. But for in-the-moment stuff, at the end of a shitty anxious day at work or whatever, having a goofy zone out audio program has really helped me.

Also, tenure by the mid-thirties is somewhat rare where I come from, so it sounds like you're pretty awesome. I think a lot of people, on achieving tenure, go through a somewhat stressful decompression phase. Tenure requires a lot of sacrifices and self-motivation and pressure, and at least with friends of mine, there's a phase of "oh, wait, how do I become a person with am actual life who is not solely driven by job anxiety?" Not to armchair psychoanalyze you too much! Just something I've seen in other people.
posted by lillygog at 6:04 AM on March 3, 2012

This may be too far on the meditation/therapy side of things, but I've found that (1) recognizing the anxiety as anxiety rather than a rational response to the outside world and (2) actually saying to myself, "this is anxiety" is surprisingly effective. It sounds simplistic, but it somehow brings things back to reality.
posted by mchorn at 6:12 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're trying to get more exercise, the Fitbit really helped me stay motivated to get in at least 10,000 steps a day.

I find it way easier to get a little extra walking in than to go to the gym. I imagine that would be especially true in a campus lifestyle.
posted by mercredi at 6:14 AM on March 3, 2012

As someone with generalized anxiety myself, I agree with guybrush_threepwood that if you can find a way to laugh, it is a great anxiety-dispeller. The right music may be helpful, too, especially if you interact with it (singing along or playing air guitar or drums or conducting the orchestra). For supplements, I find GABA and 5HTP more helpful than magnesium for anxiety (though the Mg is a good idea in general as most of us don't get enough of it), and reducing caffeine intake can be tremendously helpful.

Also, regarding increasing your exercise, it doesn't necessarily have to be exercise per se, just increased physical activity that gets your heart rate up. With that in mind, why not combine it with your desire to spend more time with your kids? It will be good for them, too. Take your kids out roller skating or to play catch or Frisbee or king of the hill or jedis vs. stormtroopers or dodgeball or race laps around each other or just dance in your living room. It doesn't have to be time on an elliptical or treadmill or tae bo class or whatever if that's not your thing.
posted by notashroom at 7:51 AM on March 3, 2012

Here is the thing that I have found that helps me the most with anxiety: Get a notebook, find somewhere quiet and alone to be, turn off your phone, and write. Write about whatever is on your mind. Write without judging yourself or worrying about who is going to read this. Write honestly about whatever you're feeling.

It's best if you do this by hand--computers and phones are failure-prone distraction machines. You want ink and paper.

I find that after doing this for twenty minutes or so, the anxiety has faded. You don't need to keep what you write; the goal is physical motion and expression of your thoughts. Move the anxiety from your brain to the page.

The other thing that I've found that helps is perspective. I find the anxiety thrives best when I'm worrying about whether or not something bad is going to happen. Once I know that something bad will happen, the anxiety goes away and I can start to prepare for it. Anxiety is all about uncertainty and indecision.

I won't go on too much here since you did say that you weren't interested in cognitive processes--but consider that anxiety itself is a cognitive problem and that that domain is where the most effective tools to fix it are going to be found.
posted by JDHarper at 8:12 AM on March 3, 2012

Exercising in nature, alone, is what helps me. A gym would just stress me out. The minute I get to the peace, quiet, smells, sounds of nature, I calm down.

Also, I drink coffee like a mad scientist, carefully adding and almost imaginary amount (up to 1/2 teaspoon) of caffeine coffee to my decaf, as then my brain 'knows' there is caffeine in there, but there really isn't so very much.

Again: nature, alone, without the kids.
posted by Vaike at 9:11 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you own a dog? It does a couple of things to have a lovely old dog. (Young and spry would work just as well, but my dog is awesome.)

We rescued our husky from the shelter. He requires at least one lengthy walk per day (Two shorter ones would be okay too.) This makes me get outside, even when I don't want to. A dog is generally happy, and in the moment. Science says it calms us to have a pet, and I concur. His simplicity, his unconditional affection--these are all balms to the anxious soul. So, not only do you get mandatory exercise, you also get the calming lovely effects from having a creature that depends upon you and loves you.

When I am upset or anxious, a walk with the dog is just what I need.
posted by RedEmma at 9:51 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

This may be too close to meditation for your comfort, but I found that sessions in a floatation (aka isolation) tank helped a lot with my anxiety. Spending time with nature is also guaranteed to put me in a relaxed mood. Intense aerobic exercise helps too.

Also, make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. My anxiety seems to get worse when I'm dehydrated.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 11:28 AM on March 3, 2012

The best that I have ever felt in my life was the year that I commuted to work on a bike. I slept well, felt great, looked great and had almost no anxiety. I didn't realize how much effect it had on my life until I changed jobs and could no longer ride my bike to work. I'm still doing well though because now I know how important exercise is and I am always looking for ways to stay active.
posted by little miss s at 11:43 AM on March 3, 2012

Magnesium works better for anxiety than anything I've ever tried. Theanine is good too. The effects of both are subtle for me but definite.

Cutting way down on caffeine. I'm down to a couple of cups of green tea daily, the rest of the time I drink herbal tea or water. My husband is also drinking less caffeine now because I'm not making coffee, and his severe anxiety is "coincidentally" much better these days even though he's always insisted that caffeine doesn't affect him.

Prayer. I find peace it brings me peace, at least most of the time.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:47 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Take a good look at your diet. Lots of people get anxious if they have coffee and a donut for breakfast, since their blood sugar swings are stressing their bodies.Watch the junk, eat regularly.
Sleep regularly or, at least get up at the same time each and every day. If you can get up early, you will have more time in your day, which I assume is lacking.

You might find a session with a nutritionist/dietician very helpful. Lots of people above are suggesting magnesium and D. B vitamins also get depleted by various medications, coffee, booze and stress and they are important for mood. But a professional can give proper advice.

Time management may be something you have to work on: people who over-commit often end up frazzled and stressed out. Juggling multiple things at one time can also crank one up. You could try just doing one thing at a time. "Slow down to speed up" is a quote I have seen in a few spots and I like it. Obviously, stress is your enemy; time management techniques can be vital.

I am not sure if this violates your "rules" or not but I have found progressive relaxation combined with hypnosis helpful: your mind cannot really focus on 2 things at a time, so if you totally focus on your muscles, it is hard to be aware of or worry about anything else. I bought a tape years ago that combines progressive relaxation with hypnosis and it pretty much absorbs my total attention, so I feel calm and relaxed afterward. Guided Visualizations can do similar things.

Related to this is the type of activity you do. For me, some of the suggestions above would not work. I would look at activities like ping pong, that demand your total attention. I find that being on a treadmill leaves my mind idle, so it looks for things to think about.

It sounds like you are changing too many things at once. You have limited willpower, so use it on one thing until the desired behaviour has become a habit. Again, this may be symptomatic of poor time management.

I would seriously consider giving up TV for a while and watch what "information" you are consuming. A lot of the news and many entertainments are pretty negative and your emotional buttons are being pushed. You can passively and uncritically absorb a large toxic load from the media. If you give up TV, you will also free up time.

Keeping a journal might be helpful but this overlaps the suggestion above that you check out the book by Burns to try the exercises. Padraigan and JD Harper are getting at the value of these types of self-awareness/self-analysis disciplines. I add my strong recommendation that you check out Burns at your local bookstore.

I think you should make an effort to socialize: old people who are on their own too much often fall into depression and anxiety states, which is why alcohol consumption in that group is too high(self-medication). Humans need social contact, period. So do something about that. A good social occasion should have you focused on and interested in other people, not your own "bag of snakes".

Finally, if your problems are worse in winter, you could look at bright light therapy. For some people SAD manifests as both depression and anxiety.
posted by PickeringPete at 12:49 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and swimming for exercise. It's a very peaceful and comfortable way to exercise, and sometimes I pray or think through my problems while I swim. It can also be a meditative experience if you want it to be just by reciting a mantra as you go or pray something meditative like the Rosary.

I always feel better after a swim.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:51 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

A good way to add exercise into your life is in little ways:

-Walk to a destination as mentioned above.
-Park at the back of a parking lot instead of the closer spot.
-Jog instead of walk from your car to the door. Even if you're only jogging 25 feet.
-Exercise in front of your tv shows. (Or what I try to do since I really watch too much tv: for half the time I'm watching tv I try to do some sort of exercises: stretch, free weights, aerobics, push ups...)
-Take stairs everywhere.
-Dogs and animals have a good stretch every time they get up from every nap. Do this every time you wake, get up from a chair, sofa.
-When you are sitting in a chair, laying on the sofa, in bed flex and relax different muscles. point and flex your feet.
-stretch in the shower. Lift yourself onto your tippy toes and down again.

And whatever else you can think of. Little things for a moment or minute or two add up. And before you know it you've had a more active day. I really like the comment above that mentions "burning off the stress." That's really true.

Also, the benefits of having a plan of action can significantly minimize stress:

I work in a hospital and one of the most stressful experiences in my life are during codes or when patients are on the cusp of a medical emergency or when other people in the room are freaking out. Sudden anxiety cripples people into inaction.
The best thing ever is the algorithms that we follow. These are drilled into us frequently with re-certifications and mock-codes. We have algorithms for all sorts of medical emergencies. I casually read over them when I have down time and it helps me remember steps when the real thing is happening.
It's a brilliant way to break down a big situation into single steps. I'm only focusing on that first step. Then the next one. Then the one after that. I'm not thinking of the big picture AT ALL. This keeps me calm and helps get me through the event with the best available results for everyone.

I've started making up algorithms for my non-work life to get through recurrent anxiety causing events.

add little jolts of exercise to your whole day.
Have a plan of action to combat recurrent anxiety triggers, break it down to single steps, focus on the step your on only. Then the next one. Then the one after that.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:34 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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