Coping statements can be part of your strategy to manage anxiety. What are coping statements? When you struggle with anxiety you are usually engaging in fearful and/or inaccurate self-talk which tends to increase the anxiety. The purpose of coping statements is to counter this anxious self-talk.
This series provides an explanation of some common coping statements. The best way to use them is to identify the ones that are most calming to you and repeat them over and over when you are anxious sort of like a mantra. Combining a single statement with taking slow breaths can be particularly helpful.
Demanding to not feel anxious creates anxiety. The more you tell yourself “I don't want to feel anxious” or “I should calm down” or “I can't stand this anxiety!” the more the anxiety is likely to increase. These are demands and anxiety doesn't respond well to demands.
Think of how you feel generally to a demand from others. If someone tells you that you “should” do something, doesn't that increase tension in your body? Most people don't like to be given demands and feel uncertain, reluctant, frustrated, or irritated, all of which cause increased tension.
And what is tension at the basic level? It is an arousal of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which is the same system of the body that plays a major role in the experience of anxiety. So when you place demands on yourself to get in control of the anxiety, you are arousing the same system of your body that is giving you trouble.
The ANS has a purpose which is to prepare you to handle a threat—either physical or emotional. When it is constantly in a state of arousal it is confusing to know when there is a true threat that needs an immediate reaction.
Instead of being overwhelmed by this huge amorphous monster of anxiety, think of the anxiety as consisting of a bunch of little pieces, some of which may be necessary but many of which are not. As you let go of each piece the anxiety becomes easier to manage. You may not have the ability to reduce the initial anxiety yet, but you can begin to let go of the demand to get rid of the anxiety. By doing so you eliminate one piece of the anxiety.
This coping statement also means to let go of the demands from others. Often, others will tell you to stop being anxious or to calm down. You can learn to ignore their demands, no matter how well-intentioned, by recognizing they don't understand the anxiety or have the answers.
The audio Rational Thinking Improvement can assist with letting go of this demand.
Kindle Books by
Dr. Monica Frank