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Understanding and Managing Anxiety: Thoughts from A California Anxiety Therapist

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Anxiety is a common human emotion that we all experience at some point in our lives. However, for some people, anxiety can become overwhelming and interfere with daily functioning. It's important to distinguish between regular worry and anxiety, as anxiety can manifest as excessive and persistent worry or nervousness that impacts your life. Fortunately, there are many tips and strategies that can help you manage anxiety and improve your quality of life. As a psychologist, I've compiled ten of the most effective tips for dealing with anxiety. Keep reading to learn more!


Examine the Functionality of Your Thoughts

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Our thoughts and emotions are closely interconnected, and each can significantly influence the other. When we have anxious thoughts, they can trigger a cascade of emotions, leading to increased feelings of worry and fear. One effective strategy for dealing with anxiety is to become more mindful of our thoughts and examine them critically. By doing so, we can identify any irrational or dysfunctional thoughts and replace them with more realistic and helpful ones.


Are Our Thoughts Functional In the Moment?


For example, if we find ourselves catastrophizing a situation, we can take a step back and evaluate if that thought is functional at the moment or not. If it's not, we can ask ourselves what another neutral thought might be that we can believe in. This process helps us challenge negative thought patterns and ultimately manage anxiety more effectively.


Manage Anxiety through Exercise


Exercise and cardio are effective strategies to manage anxiety. Physical activity helps reduce the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, and stimulates the production of endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Cardio exercises, such as running, cycling, or swimming, are particularly effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. Engaging in regular physical activity not only promotes physical health but also enhances mental well-being, reduces stress, and helps maintain a balanced mood.


Identify What You Can Control


We have the power to choose our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, regardless of external circumstances. By focusing on what we can control instead of what we can't, we can reduce anxiety and increase our sense of agency. Take time to reflect on what you can control in a given situation and make intentional choices that align with your values and goals. Remember, you are the expert on your own life and have the power to make choices that bring you closer to the life you want to live.



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Journal to Manage Your Anxiety


Using writing or journaling as a tool to manage anxiety includes keeping a worry log, where you can jot down any anxious thoughts that come to mind during the day and then reflect on them later. This helps in identifying patterns or triggers for your anxiety and challenging negative thoughts or beliefs that may be contributing to it. By gaining a fresh perspective on your thoughts through writing, you may develop new coping strategies and feel more in control of your anxiety.


Sing your anxious thoughts in a silly tone


Singing your anxious thoughts in a humorous tone is a great way to acknowledge and accept them without letting them control you. This technique, rooted in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, can help create distance between you and your thoughts, allowing you to see them for what they are - just thoughts. As an example, you could attempt to manage your negative thoughts by singing them to the tune of "Happy Birthday" in a Donald Duck voice when you're feeling anxious.


Promote Calmness with 4-by-4 Breathing


Four-by-four breathing is a simple yet effective technique that can help calm your mind and reduce feelings of anxiety. To practice this technique, find a quiet place to sit or lie down and begin by taking a deep breath through your nose, counting to four as you inhale. Then, hold your breath for a count of four. Slowly exhale through your mouth for another count of four, and then pause for another count of four before starting the cycle again. Repeat this pattern for several minutes, focusing on your breath and the sensation of air moving in and out of your body. This technique can help regulate your breathing and lower your heart rate, promoting a sense of relaxation and calm.


Reduce Caffeine and Sugar Intake


Research has shown that excessive caffeine and sugar intake can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. These substances can stimulate the nervous system and increase heart rate, leading to feelings of jitteriness and unease. Therefore, it is recommended to limit your intake of caffeine and sugar to manage anxiety effectively. Instead, opt for natural sources of energy, such as fruits, vegetables, and herbal teas.



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Focus on One Task at a Time


In today's fast-paced world, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks and responsibilities that we face each day. Another helpful strategy for managing anxiety is to focus on doing one thing at a time. Instead of trying to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, prioritize them and tackle them one at a time. This can help prevent feelings of being stretched too thin and reduce the likelihood of making mistakes. For example, if you're feeling anxious about a work project, try breaking it down into smaller tasks and focusing on one at a time until the project is completed.


Using Opposite Action as a Tool to Overcome Anxiety


Opposite action is a technique used in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to manage difficult emotions and behaviors by doing the opposite of what the emotion or urge is telling you to do. For example, if you feel anxious about attending a social event, the urge might be to cancel and stay home. However, the opposite action would suggest doing the opposite and attending the event instead. Opposite action is a powerful technique that can help individuals overcome anxiety, depression, and other emotional challenges. By deliberately acting in a way that contradicts the urges associated with negative emotions, you can break free from the cycle of negative thoughts and feelings.


Building New Pathways in the Brain


This technique can help you build new pathways in your brain that can lead to positive emotional experiences and better coping strategies. With practice, opposite action can become a natural response to emotional triggers, empowering you to take control of your emotional experiences and live a more fulfilling life.


Let Go of Resistance and Embrace Reality


When feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, radical acceptance can be a helpful technique to employ. This involves acknowledging and accepting your present situation or emotions, without attempting to change or resist them. For instance, if you are feeling anxious about a work presentation, try accepting that you are feeling anxious, and focus on the present moment rather than worrying about the outcome. This technique can help you feel more in control of your emotions, reduce anxiety and increase resilience. It is important to note that acceptance is not resignation; rather, it involves acknowledging and coming to terms with reality as it is, rather than fighting against it. By practicing radical acceptance, you can decrease your levels of anxiety and improve your overall well-being.


Patience and Practice Are the Keys to Managing Anxiety Effectively


Managing anxiety is an ongoing process that requires patience and practice. It is important to acknowledge that anxiety is a common experience that many people encounter in their daily lives. However, it can become overwhelming and negatively affect our daily functioning if we do not address it properly. Utilizing various techniques such as journaling, radical acceptance, doing one thing at a time, and opposite action can help us effectively manage anxiety.


The Benefits of Therapy for Anxiety


Seeking support from a licensed therapist can also be incredibly beneficial on this journey. Our office has many years of experience helping people overcome anxiety and create a fulfilling life. Contact us today to book an appointment with our licensed therapists and take the first step towards a more peaceful life.



Woman in a cream shirt. Working with an anxiety therapist in Newport Beach, CA can help you break the cycle of anxious thoughts and emotions. Get started with Anxiety Therapy in Newport Beach, CA today. 90254 - 90266 - 90277

Ready to Regain Control of Your Life? Begin Online Therapy for Anxiety in Newport Beach, CA Today.

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