5 things I have found helpful in coping with anxiety

A few friends have posted things to do with anxiety recently, so I thought I would share what I personally find really useful, and many of my clients seem to do too.

1 Concentrating on this moment (and the next, and the next) 

When I get anxious about something which may (or may not) happen in the future, (for example,  going walking up a mountain in Wales when I don’t think I’m fit enough) I say to myself, ‘right now you are ok. everything is ok. Concentrate on this, right now it’s all ok’. And repeat.

2 Do something to get some distance

A long day dancing like a crazy person at a local music festival helped me to start to come to terms with the possibility that we may never manage to sell our house on the terms we would like…

3 Breathe and count

This is great in those moments when you feel the agitation or panic rising, sometimes without you consciously knowing why. The counting is important: it takes your mind away from doing the worry temporarily and allows your body to calm itself.

So, belly breathing, expanding your stomach like a balloon as you breathe in, and letting it collapse gently as you breathe out: in for 2, out for 3; then in for 3, out for 4; then in for 4, out for 5, and so on, to the point that feels comfortable for you. Don’t push it. This is not a test. 

4 Tell someone

It doesn’t have to be a big deal, maybe as simple as ‘I am feeling a bit jittery right now’. Choose someone you trust to be supportive.

5 Learning to not mind

This one is longer term and needs work. In my case, a LOT of work. It is also potentially the most helpful. It’s about letting go of needing things to be a particular way. For example, ‘I must get a job’, ‘I should be better at keeping in touch with my family’, ‘I ought to do more about rejecting plastic in my local supermarket’, ‘I need us to be able to sell the house soon’ (you see a theme developing here?)

Trying to let go of the ‘should’, ‘must’, ought’, ‘want’, need’ words, trying to be ok with my flaws, and to accept what the world throws at me. Kind of close to ‘everything happens for a reason’ but not so glib perhaps; more, ‘let me be ok with what happens even if it’s not what I wanted to happen right now’.  When you find out how to do this seamlessly and easily, please let me know.

To be or not to be.. the greatest choice of all?

No, this isn’t a post about suicide, or even suicidal thoughts. Although in your case it might be. It’s a post inspired by the words of another blogger, , who wrote ‘I would rather bleed from the choices I make then be hurt by what someone choose for  me.’ It’s a post about making choices.

As a humanistic psychotherapist I often see people with anger issues. People  who tell me they can’t control what they say in arguments with loved ones, or lash out verbally at their children and are instantly remorseful. People who tell me about the ‘red mist’ coming down.

There are practical tips all over the webosphere for controlling anger, and these are (mostly) helpful. But my first suggestion to a client is that the next time they are in a situation where they find themselves getting angry, they might try to just notice what’s going on. How they are physically in their body, what’s going through their mind, how they are feeling.

Because by noticing how they are when their anger is triggered, the next time they might notice a bit sooner in the process. And that is key. If I don’t notice I’m angry until I’m exploding, then I’m on autopilot. I’m reacting. If I notice as the anger builds, then I can decide how to act. I am responding. I have a choice.

This is clearly only part of the process of the therapy; finding out together why it happens and what may be underlying the anger is the real work. But that’s another story. Choice is part of the taking back of control in our lives. When we allow others to make choices for us – as we do when we let someone wind us up to the point of explosion – then we are giving up our power. We can’t help feeling emotions like anger, sadness and fear. But we can choose what we do with them.

Have a great weekend.


Who am I and what is this all about?

I was going to write about being a garden and travel photographer and writer. I was going to try and make this funny and entertaining. Then I read a blog by a young friend of mine: Let’s be game changers

This made me really think about why I am doing this. Initially, it was to publicise my photography, to raise my profile, to get more widely known, to make a living. And that’s still up there. But actually, those aren’t the only reasons. I want people to recognise who I am. I want them to understand me a little more. Maybe I want them to like me a little more. Most of all, living in the backwaters of Norfolk (UK), I want to connect with the wider world. But not all of the time. Definitely not every day and probably not even every week. For me, being online is not a substitute for real world living (although sometimes it’s a lot easier).

Being a photographer and writer isn’t all that I am. I am also a psychotherapist, working with adults in private practice, and with young people with drug and alcohol-related issues (and a lot more besides) for the Matthew Project in Norwich. I was going to say part-time, but that sounds like I do it on the side, like I’m not quite committed to it. Untrue. When I’m doing whatever I’m doing I do it wholeheartedly. I have always tried to keep these different sides of my life separate, to maintain professional boundaries. And maybe I will decide to again. But just for now, I want to be me. All of me. Hope that’s ok with you.