There are a variety of coping skills – skills we can use to help us through difficult situations – that have shown to be beneficial for anxiety and low self-esteem. Let’s explore them, shall we?
Surrounding ourselves with a good support system has a powerful impact on our mental health and overall well-being(1). As we explored earlier, negative environments can have negative effects on us. Therefore, we can understand that having a good, solid, and positive support system can help build us up and lessen our anxiety, improve our confidence, and enhance our overall well-being(1). A support system can include your friends, family, community, therapist, and/or local support groups in your area.
While having the support of others is extremely beneficial, it is just one of the many steps we can start taking on our own today towards improvement.
Research has shown meditation has positive effects on both anxiety and low self-esteem(2). I have seen before that as soon as I mention this word in a session with many of my clients, I feel as if a dark cloud enters the room and eyes start to roll. It is like, “Okay, cool Katelyn, I am definitely not going to be doing that.” And trust me, I get it. I have been there myself. My mind starts to wander and some days I am lucky to make it two minutes, because heelllllo the anxiety and spiraling thoughts are creeping in. But I can tell you this: Nothing happens overnight. And not every day will be the day for breakthrough. BUT the day you can sit through a 20, 30-minute — dare I say it — even an HOUR meditation, you will be so proud of yourself (*cue increased self-esteem*). You will also be more relaxed and less anxious. I like to approach meditation in two ways: First, take it one day at a time, one minute at a time. Start small and ease into it. Start with two minutes, then five, ten etc. Slowly build up to the time you can handle — you can totally do it! Second, when your mind wanders, flow with it and then come back to the present.
One last tip I will leave you with is to look for guided meditations online. I have found this to be incredibly helpful in keeping me on track while meditating. Now go, try it, and let me know what you think!
Visualization is similar in some ways to the skill of meditation. I like to think of visualization as going to my “happy place” or my “safe place”. This is the place you can “escape” to when you just can’t seem to kick all those negative and anxious thoughts, or when you simply need to calm down a bit. You can use visualization to imagine you aren’t here drowning in these worries and negativity. Instead, you could be walking on the beach or lying on the warm sand. You could be in the comfort of your plush bed, in the arms of a loved one, atop a mountain — you name it; It's your calming place to go to. This act of visualization helps you to ground yourself and “bring you back to earth” so-to-speak. It can help calm your nervous system and ease those negative thoughts you don’t want.
The practice of cognitive restructuring, or challenging your negative thoughts, is a valuable coping skill as well. It can be beneficial in helping with your self-esteem and anxiety(3). In order to do this, we have to first acknowledge when we are having a negative thought. Then, challenge these and replace them with positive thinking and self-talk. Our thoughts affect our behaviors and emotions. By working to challenge these negative thoughts with facts and alternatives, we can become less anxious and more confident. For example, if you are worrying that you are not good enough, you can challenge this thought and the feelings behind it. Look for facts in your life that disprove the thought of not being enough — perhaps the people in your life that love you unconditionally, the accomplishments you have made, and the fact that you are sitting here wanting to work on improvements for yourself and the anxiety you are experiencing. Next, replace the negative self-talk with the positive. Give yourself affirmations, lift yourself up, tell yourself you are enough — because you are. It takes some awareness and intentionality, but see the difference you feel when you get into the habit of this practice.
Have you ever had that rush after completing a difficult workout? Or felt proud of yourself for getting off the couch and exercising even though you really wanted to just stay home and watch Netflix? Exercise does this for us. Not only is the act of physical activity good for your mental health, but setting goals and accomplishing tasks is too. When you make a goal to exercise or you achieve a new personal best during your workout, you are helping to boost your mood and your confidence — not to mention it is physically good for you too.
Stress increases your cortisol, which is better known as the stress hormone. When our cortisol is too high, it can increase our fatigue, cause weakness and irritability, and increase depression and anxiety symptoms(4). Exercising and staying active is one way to help decrease our excess cortisol and in turn reduce these negative effects. Exercise also helps to produce endorphins, which can act as a natural painkiller and mood elevator(4). In other words, exercise helps boost your mood and helps you to feel better.
One Last Thing Before You Go
I want to recognize that it takes practice, time, and effort to grow, heal, and develop new coping skills. Main point here — there can be growth and healing. We will all have our good days and our bad days. But our coping skills and our support system are there to guide us and uplift us through each day. I hope you can take these coping skills and use them in your everyday life. It is essential to develop a routine and get in the habit of using these daily. If one doesn’t work for you, that’s okay! Try again until you find one you can rock & roll with. Now, take a deep breath — you got this!
If you have tried the suggested coping skills outlined in my blog and still feel that you have a difficult time managing your anxiety, I am here to help you and offer Anxiety Therapy. Please do not hesitate to book a Free 15-minute consultation call with me on-line.
Katelyn Winslow, AMFT