Build an Anxiety Attack Contingency Plan

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Once you can recognize your triggers for anxiety and your emotional and physical reactions to it, then being prepared to deal with it is much easier.

These next examples cover planning around the onset of anxiety to minimize its effect the next time it inevitably comes up.

Here are some examples:

For my finances, one thing that I got in the habit of doing was, when the issue came up, instead of worrying to start planning and budgeting around it. I would confront the worry, the fear, and the anxiety by making plans to circumvent or address the worry.

I typically get really anxious when I make too many commitments at work and I feel the deadlines inching in on me. I feel like I am being smothered… and I become paralyzed.

In the past, my first reaction would be to double down on my work and try to brute-force my way through it. This doesn’t work for me, for a few reasons. 1) My work gets sloppy under pressure. 2) I may not be focused on the most important task at hand, and 3) I push myself too hard for too long and I burn out.

Now, according to my anxiety plan, I do several things.

First, I take a step back. I make sure I am not running low on energy — either sleep or food. And if possible, I fix either issue before doing anything else. I then look at my overall work tasks and make a plan according to the most important, urgent, or high impact.

I then proceed. And as things pop up as I work, I put prioritize them accordingly.

If I know what I should be doing and am energized, but am getting burnt out, I take a walk around the block.

Or if I am super-fried from stress and I know I am not going to be productive for the rest of the day, I leave and hit the gym, jump rope, make a social call, or journal.

I do this until I am centered again and then get back to work.

If I am burning out after many hours of work or a long week, and I know from listening to my body that I am not going to be very productive moving forward, then I simply call it a day.

I put everything down. I leave the work for tomorrow. And I try to make tomorrow more meaningful. There is no sense in banging my head against the wall. That is self-defeating and takes energy away from the work I need to do.

This is a brief look at my anxiety contingency plan. But here are the steps you can take to building your own:

Step 1 – Find your triggers. Things like finances, certain people, deadlines, fighting with the spouse, etc.

Write all these down.

Step 2 – Write down all the ways you begin to react to such events or thoughts. Physically and emotionally.

Try to take notice of your physical reactions, like sweating, racing thoughts, etc., and write them down.

Step 3 – Write down concrete steps you can immediately take to minimize the impact of the events or thoughts. This is very personalized and may even be counterintuitive.

Many people like to run from finances. I don’t like doing budgets. I don’t like logging in online to my credit card or bank accounts (even if I have a healthy amount of money in there). So, when I get stressed about money, I want to run, not walk, away and avoid it.

But I know from personal experience that the more honestly I face it and the sooner and more thoroughly I do so, the calmer I am going to be.

I also try to set up boundaries with people in my life. Like my mom talking to me about balding. My sister talking to me about dating. Or my dad talking to me about work.

I’m a big boy, I am aware of these topics. And either can’t control them or am not concerned with them. And I don’t want advice from particular people who don’t have it all together.

The hardest boundaries to set will probably be with the people you are closest to and who therefore have the least amount of boundaries, or someone in a superior position like a boss.

Nevertheless, if it is stealing your peace of mind and eating your lunch — I would encourage you to explore ways, including find a professional to discuss strategies with, to bring up these topics and get these place. Speaking from an area of both personal feelings (no one can argue with your feelings) and achieving maximum benefit for everyone (like enjoyable relationships, fewer fights, or higher productivity at work) can make creating boundaries a tangible and desirable outcome for everyone.

Step 4 – Make the most complete list as possible of the things you can do that decrease your anxiety.

Examples include:

  • Watching a comedy show – maybe on YouTube.com or Hulu.com
  • Socialize
  • Meditate
  • Make a social phone call, especially to someone who makes you laugh
  • Do some yoga
  • Watch a movie / TV show / etc.
  • Help someone else
  • Journal
  • Breathe. Breath control is a proven technique for lowering stress.
  • Dump your thoughts into a stream of consciousness on paper
  • Simply concentrating on even, deep breaths can lower stress and create a more peaceful attitude
  • Stop taking work calls
  • End a negative conversion
  • Close your email program
  • Change your immediate task, even if you continue working, perhaps put something off if you are going brain-dead trying to figure it out… Or perhaps creating a mole hill to a mountain
  • Take a walk around the block
  • Take a hot bath
  • Pop a Zen Anxiety (I had to include this)
  • Vent to a friend (be careful to stay in the solution and not to become a negative, nagging person in their life)
  • Do a budget (if anxious over finances)
  • Make a hierarchical to do list (if deadlines and tasks are overwhelming you)
  • Exercise
  • Jog
  • Jump Rope
  • Do some push ups
  • Have a snack
  • Stop, take a spot inventory of what is stressing you out or making you anxious, and try to put it into perspective – will it matter in 5 years? Is it a life or death situation?
  • Check your personal email
  • Read a book/Article/Etc.
  • Take deep breaths and count down at the same time from 10
  • What is the worst that can happen (they don’t put people in jail or execute them for debt for example)?
  • And do you have any control over it?
  • Aromatherapy – eucalyptus, incense, or oil burners

Keep a running list of all these things, and you will be surprised at how many you can think of and how many are simple, easy, fast and free. My personal favorite is taking a walk around the block.

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