How To Manage Anxiety When You Feel Like You've Tried Everything, According To Experts
If it feels like you've tried everything to manage your anxiety, but have yet to find what you're looking for, keep in mind there are always more options out there. It might be you haven't landed on the right treatment just yet, or that you'd benefit from a combination of a few different techniques. After all, "learning to manage anxiety is often a trial-and-error process," Charissa Andreotti, PhD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy, tells Bustle. And it can take some time to figure out what works best for you.
Sure, the go-to treatments, like medications and therapy, can be a huge help. But they don't do the trick for everyone — at least not right away — and it's important to keep that in mind so you don't feel too frustrated. It might also be necessary to supplement them with a holistic approach, Andreotti says. Or to try something new entirely.
So be patient. "As with most things in life, slow and steady wins the race," Sheila Tucker, LAMFT, a licensed associate marriage and family therapist and owner of Heart Mind & Soul Counseling, tells Bustle. "Learning the skill set to help manage anxiety is no different. It takes time, practice, and a willingness to be invested in the process." With that in mind, here are a few more effective ways to manage anxiety that you might want to consider, according to experts.
1. Activate All Your Senses
If you have anxiety, consider picking up a hobby that engages all your senses at the same time, and you might notice a big difference in how you feel.
"Cooking and gardening are two my patients tend to enjoy," Andreotti says. "Examine the ingredients, including all of the amazing colors of produce. Make sure to notice the wonderful smells. Feel the unique textures between your finger tips."
This is a way to feel more present in the moment, which can be incredibly effective in managing anxiety, and it's something you can do on a regular basis. "Even 15 minutes of focusing solely on sensations can get people into their bodies and out of their heads, which can cut off ruminative thoughts," she says.
2. Focus On One Sensation
"Similarly, activities that allow [you] to enjoy one intense sensation can be helpful," Andreotti says. "This may include floating in a float tank (or even a warm bath can be great) or a sound bath of relaxing tones and vibrations," which you can recreate on your own or experience in a yoga class.
It's all about being fully immersed in the experience, whatever it may be, in order to distract your anxious brain and take care of yourself. Focus on the sensation of your warm bath, for example, and come back to it whenever necessary.
3. Take The Anxiety With You
If your goal thus far has been to push anxiety away, try sitting with it instead. "Willingness to feel anxiety is the key to choosing a life where fear doesn't get to make your decisions," Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in anxiety disorders, tells Bustle. "The trick is to take fear and anxiety with us, wherever we go."
Take it to work, to a meeting, to dinner with friends. Accept that it's there, and move forward anyway. "When we do this," Quinlan says, "anxiety takes a backseat and we get to live the life that we want."
4. Try Massage
"Massage therapy is a great way to help put the body into the parasympathetic state so it can heal," Ashley Dwyer, a licensed massage therapist, tells Bustle. It improves circulation, she says, and oftentimes essential oils are used during the massage, which can help relax the nervous system.
This can be a great alternative treatment for anxiety, especially if you've tried more classic approaches and haven't noticed much of a difference. Consider it as something to add into your weekly (or monthly) routine, or save up and treat yourself on a particularly anxious day.
5. Get Into A "Flow" State
"If you’re fully immersed in an activity (where you lose track of time), you’ll often find yourself forgetting that you’ve even been experiencing anxiety," Lauren Cook, MMFT, a clinician practicing emotionally-focused therapy, tells Bustle. "Whether it’s surfing, painting, or cooking, find activities that require your full attention."
This "in the zone" feeling, often called flow, essentially gets you out of your head for a while and away from ongoing anxious thoughts. It's like a mental break, and can also increase your overall happiness levels.
6. Change You Inner Self-Talk
How you talk to yourself can play a major role in how you feel. So if you tend to bash yourself for having anxiety or not being able to "deal" with it, "try using a more compassionate tone when speaking to yourself," Tucker says.
It can take some time to replace a negative inner dialogue with a more supportive, caring one. But it can be immensely effective in managing anxiety. "The skill set here is in learning to create more self-compassion and self-kindness," Tucker says. "The payoff is the experience of more peace when anxious thoughts, feelings. or other symptoms arise."
7. Try Different Forms Of Therapy
If you haven't tried therapy yet, consider that as your next move. "While reaching out for professional support might feel daunting, therapy is an evidence-based treatment that is available from anxiety," Dr. Christina Iglesia, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. It can be well worth your time and money.
Just make sure the therapist specializes in treating anxiety, Iglesia says, in order to get the most benefit. And while you're at it, consider all the different therapy options that exist, and take you're time when choosing the right one for you.
If you've been doing cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, you might want to try art therapy, or dialectical behavioral therapy. Be open to new forms of treatment, and you might land on one that feels right for you.
Even if it feels like you've tried everything to manage anxiety, there are always other things you can do. So learn to be OK with the process, and be nice to yourself as you figure out what works best for you.