Anxiety can run your life – if you let it. The negative thought patterns and physical responses that anxiety brings can be exhausting to battle every day. Therapy is a great tool to help you cope – if you have access to it. And if you aren’t sure therapy is in the cards for you […]
Anxiety can run your life – if you let it. The negative thought patterns and physical responses that anxiety brings can be exhausting to battle every day. Therapy is a great tool to help you cope – if you have access to it. And if you aren’t sure therapy is in the cards for you right now, you might be wondering…can you treat anxiety yourself? Does self therapy for anxiety really work?
Self therapy for anxiety is an effective mental health strategy, but it requires intense commitment. If you stick with it, you CAN learn to manage your anxiety and redirect your anxious brain on your own, though speaking to a professional can help you feel better sooner.
Great news, right? But where do you start? Self-therapy for anxiety is a process that involves psychoeducation and learning about anxiety triggers, noticing and redirecting negative thought patterns, and practicing physical relaxation techniques.
Does self therapy for anxiety work?
What is Self Therapy?
There’s one thing I’d like to clear up before we go any further – self therapy isn’t the same as therapy. When you engage in self therapy, you’re really working on coping skills and self-awareness. But self therapy is not therapy.
Therapy gives you an unbiased third party to discuss your personal and emotional issues with, and that simply isn’t possible to do on your own. That being said, you CAN improve yourself and your mental health by utilizing coping skills and other techniques, which I’ll discuss more below.
Psychoeducation and Anxiety Triggers
The first step is educating yourself about anxiety. The anxious brain helps humans pinpoint and react to perceived threats – it kicks off the Fight/Flight/Freeze response. The Goldilocks (just right) amount of anxiety motivates us, helps us be productive, and pushes us to create. However, when anxiety is overactive, it has the opposite effect and makes daily life infinitely harder to navigate. PS: you can listen to the Anxiety 101 episode of my podcast to learn even more after reading this article.
Once you’re confident you have a good grasp on how anxiety works, it’s time to focus that curious energy inward. What exactly are you hoping to achieve through self therapy for anxiety?
Are you suffering from frequent panic attacks and looking to learn how to physically cope with them? Do you engage in negative thought patterns that create anxiety out of even the most mundane situations? Has your anxiety affected your close personal relationships, and are you looking to break that cycle?
Be honest (and kind) with yourself about how anxiety impacts you and what you’d like to change. Journal about the last few times your anxiety inhibited you, and see if you notice any patterns about what triggers your anxiety. Have you developed any coping behaviors that aren’t ideal, or do you notice unwanted emotions around specific topics? Once you have an idea of the nuances of your anxiety, you can move on to the next step.
Negative Thought Patterns
Anxiety has a silver tongue – if you stay inside your own head and never question it, it can seem like your thinking is completely objective. However, if you subject yourself to a few questions about your thought processes, the negative thoughts become apparent and it’s easy to dismantle them through self therapy for anxiety.
Whether your best friend cancelled on plans unexpectedly, your significant other isn’t texting you back, or your boss has called you in for an unexpected one-on-one tomorrow, write down the situation, what you’re thinking about it, and these questions:
- Is there any evidence to support my thought?
- Is there any evidence contrary to my thought?
- What is the likelihood my thought comes to pass? (Put a realistic percentage on this, based on your evidence in 1 & 2)
- Will this matter in five years?
Our anxiety feeds off of negative thinking. The way to put it to rest for a while is to pinpoint your negative thoughts and replace them with much gentler realistic thoughts. Speak to yourself as you would a dear friend. The way that you think has a significant impact on the way that you feel, so to change how you feel, you must change how you think.
Physical Relaxation Techniques
Anxiety isn’t just an emotional experience, it’s an incredibly physical experience. So, part of self therapy for anxiety is learning how to regulate the physical symptoms. Whether it’s sweaty palms, rapid breathing, or a racing heart, utilizing relaxation techniques and prioritizing physical wellness will help you to combat anxiety.
Being active for as little as thirty minutes a day can help regulate your nervous system and prevent your Fight/Flight/Freeze response from being set off on accident. Try yoga, walking on your lunch break, or even just dancing in your kitchen to your favorite music while your dinner cooks. Think of this as preventative maintenance- just like rotating your tires on your car.
Breathing is something you do every day, but you should still practice it. Specifically deep breathing techniques. There are a ton of breathing exercises online, and you can find a pattern that works for you (4/4/4, 5/7/5, 4/7/8, etc.). Choose one that has you inhaling, holding your breath, then exhaling. Make sure you’re inhaling deep into your belly and when you exhale be sure to fully exhale, too.
Last but not least, look into muscle relaxation techniques. Again, there are a lot of exercises to choose from, but they involve methodically tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups, all over your body, to induce a state of relaxation.
Therapy for anxiety can help you to learn more about what causes your anxiety, how to regulate your physical response to it, and turn your negative thinking into realistic thinking. Self therapy for anxiety can be just as effective short-term and long-term, if you’re committed to practicing it.
Anxiety isn’t something to be ashamed of, or hide. It’s likely your anxiety that you have to thank for you making it this far. It’s just a little overactive at times, but you can take charge and minimize that overactivity with the help of the techniques in this blog post.
If you’ve attempted self therapy for anxiety and you’re still struggling to manage it, please reach out. Just because you can do it alone doesn’t mean you have to. My team and I are always here to help you be the best you that you can be.