The dictionary describes anxiety as: ‘a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome’. Our brains are primitive and designed to keep us safe from danger and harm.
Anxiety can be helpful in certain situations, it can keep us safe. For example, not putting your hand in the fire or you will get burnt, or staying indoors when there is a thunderstorm outside.
When anxiety isn’t good, is when it prevents us from doing things we usually enjoy or need to do like, go to work, or go shopping, or when we get scared to go to new places and meet new people.
As you will know by now I like to keep things nice and simple by using acronyms!
Here is my M.A.S.T.E.R acronym to help you to remember what to do if you are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety.
- MAKE YOUR FEELINGS KNOWN
- STAY PRESENT
- THOUGHT RECORDING
Tips for Overcoming Anxiety using the “MASTER” Acronym
M for “Make your feelings known”
When we bottle up our emotions, we risk:
- Feeling anxious all the time
- Feeling lonely
- Latching onto unhealthy coping strategies
- Weight fluctuations
- Digestive problems
If you struggle with talking to others about how you feel, it can also help to express your thoughts through writing them down, either in a journal or through writing a letter to the person you need to vent to. You can choose the appropriateness of whether you send the letter or not. Usually it isn’t necessary!
A for “Affirmations”
Affirmations are sentences aimed to affect the conscious and the subconscious mind so that in turn, they affect our:
- Thinking patterns
Affirmations are really simple, short and powerful sentences. When you say, think, even hear them, they become thoughts that create reality.
Research shows that we have between 45,000 and 51,000 different thoughts in one day. That’s 150 to 300 thoughts per minute. Unfortunately for most people, 80% of these thoughts are negative. It’s possible to reverse these negative thoughts by using affirmations.
For example, a morning affirmation might be: ‘I am confident that my day will run smoothly. I will confidently and calmly handle anything that comes my way.’
The words composing the affirmation, automatically and involuntarily, bring up related mental images into the mind, which inspire, energise and motivate.
S for “Stay present”
Often when we are anxious it is because we are outside of the present moment. We are either thinking about the past, or worrying about what the future may hold. Mindfulness is all about staying within the present moment rather than looking too far ahead.
This grounding exercise can help you stay present. It’s called 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. This exercise is particularly useful if you feel a panic attack coming on.
Here’s what to do:
- Write down 5 things you can see.
- Write down 4 things you can feel
- Write down 3 things you can hear
- Write down 2 things you can smell
- Write down 1 positive thing about you
Notice how you felt before, compared to how you feel now.
T for “Thought recording”
As mentioned above, thousands of thoughts go unchecked through our minds without the opportunity to really look at them and make sure they are fair and realistic.
If you are noticing more negative thoughts than normal ask yourself this question; “would this thought stand up as truth in a court of law?” If the answer is NO, then it is important to look at all of the evidence, and conclude with a more fair and realistic thought. Using a pen and paper to write down these thoughts and take them captive, can help to work on them more objectively.
E for “Exercise”
A study from Harvard University showed that people with anxiety tend to be more sedentary and do less intense forms of physical activity, if any. The ironic part is that lacing up your trainers and getting out and moving may be the single best non medical solution for preventing and treating anxiety!
How does exercise help ease anxiety?
- Engaging in exercise distracts you from the very thing you are anxious about.
- Moving your body decreases muscle tension, lowering the body’s contribution to feeling anxious.
- Getting your heart rate up changes brain chemistry, increasing the availability of important anti-anxiety neurochemicals,
- Regular exercise builds up resources that bolster resilience against stormy emotions.
R for “Relaxation”
Relaxation is key to managing stress and anxiety. Prioritising relaxation, especially guided relaxation, everyday for three weeks should help you to see an improvement in how anxious you feel.
For tips on how to relax, check out my previous article R.E.S.T: Are you getting enough? or try one of my mindfulness exercises on YouTube here.
If you found this article helpful, you might find our other resources on anxiety to be helpful too!
- Anxiety Resource Page
- Managing Anxiety With the Threat of COVID-19
- Top Anxiety Reducing Products for Teens and Young Adults
About the Author: Lily-Jo
Lily-Jo is a qualified counsellor, counselling supervisor, and senior coach at Unstoppable Life Coaching. She is also the founder of mental health organisation, The Lily-Jo Project, which specialises in online digital wellbeing resources for children, teens and adults of all ages.