Topic 1 Specific strategies to handle anxiety (social)

1.1. Distraction

  • One of the effective ways to manage an anxious response is to change our focus of attention, breaking the chain that maintains the anxiety and allowing us to be in a state to handle the situation.
  • Distraction techniques consist of voluntarily shifting our focus of attention from our thoughts and sensations to another stimulus that allows us to reduce our anxiety.
  • For the selection of the task we must take into account: 1) that it arouses our interests, and, 2) it is important that the task involves a relevant behavioural implication for the person, that is to say, that we are active subjects when carrying out the activity.

1.2. Diaphragmatic breathing

It is also called belly or abdominal breathing. During diaphragmatic breathing, you consciously use your diaphragm to take deep breaths. When you breathe normally, you don’t use your lungs to their full capacity. Diaphragmatic breathing allows you to use your lungs at 100% capacity to increase lung efficiency. The result is slow, even, deep breathing.

Benefits of this exercise:

  • Reduces pain
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Help with heart rate
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Reduces muscle tension
  • Reduce stress
  • Makes breathing slower

If you want to practice, check this video:

1.3. Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique that relaxes the muscles in your body. It helps to reduce tension or stress in your muscles. When you release the tension, the muscles relax. Progressive muscle relaxation is achieved by tensing and relaxing a group of muscles repeatedly until the muscle remains relaxed. As you practice, you will learn to feel the difference between a relaxed muscle and a tense one.

Benefits of progressive muscle relaxation:

  • Reducing stress
  • Lowering the heart rate
  • Helping to manage anxiety
  • Reducing muscle tension
  • Reducing pain
  • Feeling more rested

If you want to try a short version of progressive muscle relaxation, check this video:

1.4. Self-talk

  • Self-talk are phrases or messages that you address to yourself in order to cope appropriately with an anxious situation. It is a superficial technique, which is not enough on its own to overcome the problem, but it can help you deal with anticipatory anxiety and crises or attempted crises.
  • Its use consists of carrying one or several sheets of paper with you and reading them at the moment you experience symptoms, with the aim of counteracting the automatic tendency to make catastrophic interpretations when you notice a sensation that you don’t like.

If you want to find out more and practice this technique, check this video:

1.5. Positive imaging

  • It is a technique that consists of actively using the imagination to transform our negative emotions into more positive ones or to directly provoke positive emotions.
  • It consists of learning to relax and vividly imagine different things or situations as realistically as possible and providing as many details as we can include, while generating control of our emotions, sensations and behaviour.

If you want to practice this technique, check this video:

1.6. Exposition (face feelings without avoiding them)

  • Feelings and anxiety diminish if we stop escaping from them, but if we strive to remove or eliminate them, they may become stronger and more persistent.
  • Therefore, it is important to dare to experience anxiety or any feared feelings without doing anything to reduce or remove them. Instead, try to face them without doing anything to avoid them, without using any calming techniques.

If you want to find out more about this technique, check this video:

1.7. Cognitive restructuring

  • It consists of identifying and challenging maladaptive thoughts. These will then be replaced by more appropriate ones and the emotional disturbance caused by these thoughts will be reduced or eliminated.
  • The technique involves discussing negative automatic thoughts that occur in situations that provoke anxiety or other emotional disturbance (e.g. “They think I’m boring”) and replacing them with more rational beliefs or thoughts (such as “I can’t read other people’s minds, they’re probably tired now”).

It is not an easy technique, but you can do some actions. Check this video if you are interested!