1: Manage your breathing: consciously breathe more deeply and slowly. It is your rate and depth of breathing that physiologically affects your heart rate, and thus your sense of anxiety and panic
2: Lower your shoulders: this will help you relax, take the tension out of your neck, and you will also look less tense to others
3: Choose your focus: focus on what they are saying (content), rather than how they are saying it (packaging). You will then be less occupied with their tone, and be more attentive to their message. This is a distraction technique – by focusing on content you are distracting yourself from their tone/language
4: Develop a ‘program interrupt’: devise an anchor that you have learned to associate with a rising state of anxiety. (One would be a visual image of a red neon sign which flashes ‘STOP!’ in slower and slower pulses). This is a ‘program interrupt’ – a way of giving yourself a message to stop what you are doing, and change. This ‘program interrupt’ should be associated with your first signs or evidence of anxiety (eg stomach churn), so that as your stomach churns, you immediately think of your visual anchor, which signals you to change
5: use a 5-step reframe: when you are conscious of your anxiety you are more able to control it. Reframing implies looking at what is going on through a different ‘frame’, or perspective. In this example, change anxiety to problem solving by following this 5-step approach:
- what is the problem?
- why is it a problem?
- what are my options?
- which option do I prefer?
- do it!
This will take you out of worrying (destructive) and into problem solving (constructive)
6: Move from emotion to reason: this includes buying yourself time to think, to let your emotional surge (which always comes first) wash through you and out, allowing yourself to move from an emotional to a rational state. Ideas for this include counting to 10, staying silent, taking notes…
7: Take a time out: if you are agitated, then go somewhere to cool off, think and reflect. You don’t always have to deal with something there and then, especially if you feel disabled by your anxiety. However…
8: Feel the fear and do it anyway: one terrific way of overcoming panic, anxiety or fear is to tackle that which you are anxious, panicky or fearful about! Odd though this sounds, it is true. That’s because in tackling it (whatever ‘it’ is), all your mind and emotions are focused on the situation, and managing ‘it’, rather than investing in worry or fear. For example, sports people and actors are often nervous – even sick – before a performance, but once on the pitch/stage, doing it, they have no nerves or worries at all.
9: Ask checking questions: one way of retaining your rational state is to ask these logical questions:
- what alternative do I have to how I’m feeling now, or to what I’m about to do now?
- how will this look, or how will I feel about this, at 11 pm tonight?
Both questions require a reflective, thoughtful and rational response; the second one places you in the territory of consequence, forcing a more mature response. Both these questions help keep you ‘grounded’ in reasonableness.
10: Be easy on yourself: accept your humanity. So – you get flustered or agitated…so what? Doesn’t everyone? No one is perfect. And you probably have loads of other qualities. Don’t beat yourself up! Don’t be your own worst enemy! Let – it – go!