Dealing With Anxiety and Difficult Situations

Interview with Denise Schwartz PT,IMT, C:  The Manual Touch Physical Therapy

May 23, 2018

Many of us feel anxious in situations such as at work, race day, or in everyday life. Licensed professional counselor, Holly Katz, has four great tips on how to deal with anxiety. With Holly’s blessing, I’ve shared her tips below:

1. Breathe

Have you ever gone into a stressful situation, such as having to confront someone about an issue or going into a strange place? To stop anxiety in its tracks, take a couple of deep breaths to slow the situation down. Here’s how:

  • Breathe into your abdomen, as this ensures you are using your diaphragm.
  • Inhale for 6 seconds
  • Hold for 2 seconds
  • Slowly let it out for 7 seconds

These counts are a generalization, so if they don’t feel right, do what feels good to you.

Tip: Put a BREATHE label on your water bottle for race day or on your desk to remind yourself to take a moment to breathe.

2. Act the Part or Visualize

At Holly’s seminar, one of the participants said she gets nervous when communicating with higher level executives. Another participant said he feels nervous on race day.

Tip: Choose a positive role model for these situations and take on their mannerisms/pretend to be like them.

So, now the employee visualizes herself as the executive she admires most when she has to meet with higher level executives to limit her jitters.

3. Prepare and Create a Strategy

Does public speaking make you nervous? Having difficulty sleeping the night before a big race?

Preparations can help.  Early in my career I was afraid to teach or speak in front of an audience, as I was afraid I couldn’t answer certain questions properly. I was able to overcome these nerves by formulating a strategy and being prepared. The strategy was figuring out how to answer those questions — then I was ready to teach. I also made sure to prepare by practicing my presentation many times before the event. I also reminded myself I have done this before and my presentations are always well received.

For race day prepare like Olympic Skier, Lindsey Vonn. She visualizes the race course numerous times in her head before she heads down a mountain.

4. Create a Calming Ritual

Calming rituals are commonly used by professionals before a performance to calm their nerves. For example, have you ever noticed how a tennis player will assess the strings of their rackets before each point? Or, the other night I watched a guitarist adjust his jacket sleeves and stretch his fingers before playing.

Both the guitarist and the tennis player are performing rituals, priming their nervous system to get ready to play. This allows them to slow down and breathe as well.

Tip: A simple solution to overcome your anxiety would be to wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it when feeling stressed or anxious. This helps you get out of your head and stay present.

Try one or all of these methods to help get you through difficult situations, whether it’s race day jitters, dealing with tough coworkers, or managing uncomfortable life situations. Some methods may work better than others, and that’s okay. Whatever works for you!