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4 min read

Creating an Anxiety Action Plan For Your Anxiety Disorder

A woman has anxiety

For many of us, the stress of daily activities or life transitions can lead to feeling overwhelmed. In some cases, this can lead to chronic anxiety, or even an anxiety disorder. In either case, it can be helpful to manage anxiety symptoms with an anxiety action plan. But how do we do this? In this article, we'll share some ways to identify anxiety disorders, determine whether a plan is necessary, and offer tips and coping strategies for managing anxiety.

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorders are a group of conditions that are characterized by the DSM-5 by feelings of excessive anxiety, fear, or worry around real or perceived threats. Some of these anxiety disorders include general anxiety disorder, social phobia, panic disorder, and specific phobia. These anxiety disorders can negatively impact thoughts, behaviors, and relationships.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Symptoms of anxiety disorders can vary depending on the type of disorder, but there are some common symptoms you may see across all of these conditions. Common signs of anxiety disorders include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Feelings of fear or excessive anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Shallow, quick breathing

What is an anxiety action plan?

An anxiety action plan is just what it sounds like--a clear and actionable plan to help manage excessive anxiety. Having a plan can create a feeling of control, which may also help manage anxious feelings. You can work on creating this plan by yourself, with a loved one, or with your mental health provider. There are even templates available online.

Cognitive restructuring is an important part of treatment for anxiety disorders. Therapeutic interventions like CBT and DBT offer coping strategies and homework assignments to help you recognize anxiety triggers, and learn to manage them with relaxation techniques.

A sample anxiety plan may include a column of your own anxiety triggers, as well as a corresponding column with strategies and relaxation techniques that help you in managing anxiety. When you have anxious feelings, you can consult your own plan to see which anxiety symptoms you are experiencing, as well as specific steps to take in combating these symptoms.

This may be especially helpful if you are experiencing a panic attack, as panic symptoms are often physical and cause the person experiencing them to worry about their health. Seeing these symptoms listed can help the person understand that their worries are related to anxiety and allow them to stop worrying enough to take action.

Anxiety Management Strategies

As a part of your anxiety action plan, there are a number of evidence-based stress management strategies you can use. Here are some of the most effective.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle to reduce anxiety.

Certain lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on anxiety and negative thoughts. These lifestyle changes include getting enough sleep, getting regular moderate-intensity physical activity, cutting out unhealthy coping strategies like smoking or substance use, and following a balanced eating plan.

Most of us do not get enough sleep, and following proper sleep hygiene protocols may help. Track the sleep you are currently getting, and try to gradually increase both the time and quality of your sleep. Some strategies to improve sleep include:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet
  • Limit screen time and avoid screens about an hour before bed (or at least put them in dark mode)

Physical activity can also be a key ingredient when it comes to reducing feelings of anxiety. Regular exercise can lead to improved mental health outcomes, including reducing both feelings of stress and depression. The most important factor in exercise is simply doing it. Find something you enjoy and stick with it. This can include yoga, walking, team sports, group fitness classes, or engaging in physical play. The National Institute of Mental Health recommends getting 60+ minutes on most days of the week.

Stay in the present moment.

Training your brain to exist in the present moment can help reduce anxiety. This may take time for someone who is unused to this kind of exercise, but you can start small and gradually increase your time. Meditation is an excellent way to slow down your thinking, relax, and bring yourself into the present moment. Take a few minutes right after you wake up, or right before you go to bed to follow a guided meditation. You can find these on YouTube or on a number of free apps.

Connect with friends and family.

Support groups are key when managing feelings of stress or anxiety. Recruit a person to be your support person. This can be a family member or friend who is willing to help you relax by talking you through moments when panic or anxiety takes over. Also, stay involved in any friend groups or activities that you are currently involved in. If you don't have any, reach out to a meet up group, volunteer with a local nonprofit, or join an online interest group.

Plan worry time.

An effective strategy to manage worries or feelings of stress is to plan a specific time to focus on them. Schedule a block of time to allow your brain to panic and be anxious over dangers, both real and perceived. Once that time is over, implement one of your relaxation techniques, such as a progressive release of muscle tension, a breathing exercise, or visualization.

Breathing Exercises

A breathing exercise can be helpful for reducing feelings of danger, and bringing the mind into the present moment. Some common types of breathing exercise include box breathing, breath awareness, anchor breathing, and pursed-lip breathing.

When Therapy Can Help

A mental health provider can be an excellent support for those who are experiencing severe anxiety disorders. They can help you reframe negative thoughts, offer coping skills to help you stop worrying, and even connect you to support groups that may help you talk through your feelings. If your anxiety is keeping you from preferred activities or having a negative impact on your daily life or relationships, it may be time to talk to a mental health provider for help.

Anxiety Support in Brooklyn

Feelings of anxiety can build and lead to mental health challenges if left unaddressed. The good news is that there are strategies available to help develop a more relaxed mindset.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offers both online and in-person appointments to help you cope with anxious feelings, panic, and the depression that can accompany them.

Give us a call today, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right Brooklyn therapist to offer tools and support to cope with life challenges that can affect our functioning, as well as help increase your confidence and build a more positive mindset. 

Book a Therapy Session in Brooklyn Today

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