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Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety Attacks 

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety Attacks

I frequent social media networks that are littered with different people who deal with their anxiety and other mental illnesses in different ways. It is possible that you encounter people dealing with their mental illnesses differently than you expected as well.

On Tumblr, someone shared about unhealthy coping mechanisms:

“…THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO when suffering from anxiety is to do a “relaxing” thing that just enables your mind to dwell and obsess more on the thing that’s bothering you. You need to ESCAPE from the dwelling and the obsession in order to experience relief.

You can drive to a quiet farm, drive to the beach, drive to a park, or anywhere else, but as someone who has tried it all many, many times, trust me–it’s a waste of gas. You will just end up still sad and stressed, only with sand on your butt. You can’t physically escape your sadness. Your sadness is inside of you. To escape, you need to give your brain something to play with for a while until you can approach the issue with a healthier frame of mind.

People who have anxiety do not need more time to contemplate, because we will use it to contemplate how much we suck.”

“Relaxing” here is used to define an activity that leaves you unoccupied, allowing you more space to be susceptible to your anxious thoughts. In my anxious moments, asking me to take a silent walk or sit and watch waves, would make me feel resentful, to be honest. It allows me to build new ways of tearing myself down while having a fancy place to do so; a fancy place I probably didn’t feel entitled to enjoy at that moment. For me to quell the anxious thoughts or taper them down, then introducing a quiet walk, a beach, or any other nature excursion as a reward would have a better effect. However, we must acknowledge that everyone’s anxiety looks different.

Likewise, how we cope with it may look different than what someone else may use to calm their mind. Anxiety comes in many shapes and forms. It is only fair to assume that different strategies can be adapted for each. Similarly, what works for one person may not work for another.

Before you can find healthy coping mechanisms for anxiety you'll need to be able to identify unhealthy coping mechanisms,

Anxiety Attack Techniques

Before I understood my anxiety disorder, I would utilize counting from one to whatever the highest number was when I felt I was calm. This would not work when my anxiety was induced by human interactions, but it helped with my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a car accident. Squealing tires and sudden jamming of brakes put me back in a place where I can hear metal crunching and feel my head hitting the door frame.

I will brace myself for an impact (that most likely will not come) on instinct, so I take comfort in trying to calm my body’s reaction from tense to relaxed. Lately, I start counting from the moment I feel myself preparing to panic – the faster my panic builds, the quicker I count. I try to outpace my reaction. I am not a competitive person, but I feel more confident in myself if I am able to calm myself before reaching one hundred or needing to pass fifty.

The reason this would not work for the anxiety I feel in a crowded area or being around people I am not used to is the reaction that is triggered in my brain is not similar between the two. When it comes to being triggered in a crowded place, I have to find a distraction. Whether it is reading (anything) around me, scrolling social media (there’s irony in there somewhere), or even playing a game on my phone. I know, you’re probably wondering how old I might be, “a game? on your phone in 2018?” But don’t knock it until you try it.

I must also be mindful of games that will not further increase my anxiety. Card games that require my concentration are my typical shtick. The Tumblr post highlighted above suggests things like crosswords and sudoku as helpful tools. I am not much of a crossword fan and I’m definitely not willing to do math more than I have to. I point this out to say, your coping mechanisms must look like what you would feel confident and comfortable doing.

Identifying Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Before finding healthier ways of dealing with my social anxiety I would turn to drinking alcohol, and a lot of it. Looking back, the amount of alcohol I consumed should have been a telltale sign that there was more to it than being a “social drinker”. There is nothing wrong with drinking, but practicing moderation in life and more importantly, while suffering from an anxiety disorder, is very important. Anxiety has the potential to create an endless cycle; a loop where your mind becomes stuck in the negative.

Alcohol can contribute to keeping you in that loop with no real enforcement to work your way out of it. Once again, I must stress that everyone’s anxiety might not respond the same. But if you are a “social drinker”, taking some time to assess why you need the amount of alcohol you drink might be enlightening.

fIn order to truly tackle your anxiety disorder, you should spend more time identifying your state of mind in those moments and finding out what you feel confident doing. The next step is to move forward to boldly doing it despite the negativity that you may be directing towards yourself. This mindset takes time to achieve but recognizing that you are capable of doing an activity well enough to calm your anxiety, (the way I see it) can filter over into any other activity you may be anxious or doubting capabilities for.

For instance, if my anxiety is directed to my writing, I use another talent to offset the destabilization of my mind. I have the ability to organize a room in thirty minutes if I am driven by my anxiety. The act of cleaning a space allows me to clean my psychological space. Sometimes, using one mental illness to your advantage can help another.

A paragraph from the aforementioned Tumblr post that stood out for me was this:

“…In fact, you could say that’s what anxiety is–hyper-contemplating. When we let our minds run free, they run straight into the thorn bushes. Our minds are already running, and they need to be controlled. They need to be given something to do, or they’ll destroy everything, just like an overactive husky dog ripping up all the furniture…”

If your anxiety can be likened to an animal running wild, remember that animals are trainable. Think of the time, effort, and patience it takes to teach a dog proper house habits and tricks. As much as we all would like to be Cesar Millan of our anxiety, life does not always work out that way. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn to be like him. It takes practice, patience, and some more patience.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by Anxiety (because it is a big bully). It pushes this notion that we are incapable of tackling it. Thankfully, Witted Roots and other online mental health blogs are here to remind you that you are stronger than your disorders. You are the master of your mental illness. As Shanice always says, we are rooting for you.I want to take it a step further and invite our readers to share their own coping mechanisms with me. Please @claire_musings in a tweet or direct message me (if you’re not so bold). Perhaps you’ve found a (healthy) way to cope that you want to share, privately or publicly. Or maybe you just want to chat a little about your journey. Let’s chat!

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