These coping skills for anxiety may sound weird at first, but in fact, research has proven them to be effective for both stress and anxiety.
Statistics show that 40% of disability worldwide is down to anxiety and depression. In fact, mixed anxiety and depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the UK at present.
But what if I told you that there is a way for science to help with anxiety and it is not about taking medication?
Sometimes studies can throw up the weirdest coping skills for anxiety, but there is evidence to suggest that they do work.
Here are five examples of unusual coping skills for anxiety that are backed by scientific research:
1. Refer to yourself in the third person
One study revealed that by simply talking to yourself in the third person allowed an essential distance from the problem at hand, giving that person space and time to deal with the problem more effectively. By talking to themselves in the third person, that person was able to create a psychological distance from whatever the worrying situation was.
“Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain,” says Jason Moser, Associate Professor of Psychology. “That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions.”
2. Do it badly
Writer and poet GK Chesterton said: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” and he may have a point.
If you are a perfectionist, worry about the finer details, want to wait for the perfect time to start a project, or simply don’t want to let people down, then practising ‘doing it badly’ relieves you of all this stress.
You can start straight away, it doesn’t matter if it turns out to be less than perfect and it might not even be as bad as you think it will be. You may even find that you are completing tasks a lot faster because you are not poring over the smaller details with a fine tooth comb.
The point is that nothing is so important that it causes us to worry unnecessarily and end up making us ill.
3. Wait to worry
Worrying about a stressful situation can be all-consuming and take up all of your day if you allow it to. Instead of allowing a problem to dominate your waking hours, research has shown that if you purposely set aside ten minutes a day to actively worry about your problems, this can be much more productive than dwelling on them all day.
By giving yourself permission at the end of the day to solely focus on the problem at hand, you are freeing up the rest of your time and also not feeding the anxiety during the day because you are not worrying about it. This is one of the most useful coping skills for anxiety and excessive worrying.
4. Develop a ‘Catastrophe Scale.’
This strategy works really well if you are a ‘count your blessings kind of person’. It involves you making a scale of what you consider to be catastrophes.
So, draw a line down a piece of paper and write zero on one end, 50 in the middle and 100 at the other end. Then think about what is the absolute worst thing that you can imagine would happen to you and write that near the 100 scale. So for instance, the death of a partner or child would rate 100, but being late for a job interview would not score so highly. Spilling tea on your shirt would rank in the low fives or tens.
By using the catastrophe scale, you can put your previous worries into perspective and see exactly how they measure up in the real world. This makes catastrophe scale one of the most effective copings skills for anxiety.
5. Find others worse off than you
Many people who suffer from depression and anxiety look around them and believe that everyone else is living the highlife, that everyone else is happy and contented without a worry in the world. Why can’t they be like them, they wonder? But of course this is far from the truth. You only have to look at celebrity suicides to realise that even money and fame do not necessarily buy you happiness.
Studies have shown over and over again that what really gives us purpose is to be needed and depended on by someone else. This is not to say that we all have to have our egos stroked on a regular basis, but doing something for someone else is the best medicine and defence against poor mental health. It gives our lives value and meaning and for those who feel there is nothing to live for, shows them that there are people who still need something from us.
The renowned Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who was arrested and sent to a Nazi concentration camp in 1942, wrote about his experiences in the camps. His book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ was written in nine days in the camp and he discovered that even under the most horrendous circumstances, those prisoners that still had meaning in their lives were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. Frankl himself lost his pregnant wife and the majority of his family to the Nazi camps.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Frankl wrote, “the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Will you give these unusual coping skills for anxiety and stress a try? Which coping strategies work for you? We would love to hear your thoughts.