Julie Miller's Mental Health Blog

When an individual is “triggered” and anxiety results, how can they cope?  If their nervous system is set to high most of the time, it doesn’t take much of a trigger to set up a panic attack or high levels of anxiety that can interfere with functioning.  It’s kind of like a cup that is almost full having to accept a small amount more of liquid, and then overflowing, even though the added amount was relatively small.  If the cup weren’t already overflowing, the small amount added wouldn’t have caused the liquid to overflow.

One solution for some is to lower the level of liquid in the cup to begin with.  That way, when an average amount of liquid is added (like some kind of stress from the day), the cup doesn’t overflow.

So how do you lower the level of liquid?  While it may sound like a cliche’ and therefore may be dismissed easily, if one can manage the fullness of the cup, one may be able to stay ahead of overwhelming anxiety.  Managing the fullness of the cup is basically stress management, keeping the level in the cup low.  Breathe.  Practice “here-and-now” orientation (aka “mindfulness”).  Avoid catastrophizing (the “what ifs”).  Self-soothe with healthy behaviors (exercise, meditation, relaxation exercises, using your support system, etc.).  Breathe.  Taking oneself to a safe or peaceful place in one’s mind.  Doing something fun.  Getting a massage (or pedicure, manicure, facial, or whatever feels soothing).  All of these behaviors can keep the level of stress in one’s life lower, keeping down levels of anxiety as well.

Not all of these ideas work for everyone.  But something can work for you.  Explore.  Experiment.  Pay attention to how your body feels when you are doing something, anything, and make note.  If you’re eating while driving and talking on the phone (bad idea right?), notice how your body feels.  Hang up the phone and pay attention.  Pull over and put down the hamburger and fries.  Are your muscles tight or relaxed?  Is your stomach churning, or calm?  Your body will tell you the truth if you will pay attention.

Pet your dog, and notice how your body feels.  Or pet the cat.  Feed the fish.  Watch your child playing.  Just notice what the experience is like for your body.  Notice what it’s like when your body feels calm.  When it feels hungry.  When it feels satisfied.

Pay attention.

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