Living with anxiety can be very tiring.
At this time, it is important to look after your physical health, practice good sleep hygiene and form strong and healthy support networks. Keeping up with a meditation practice or even just practicing breathing exercises has shown help some of us cope and feel more in control. Apps like Headspace or Insight Timer have many simple and easy-to-follow guided practices that are especially useful for beginners.
One may say that I have tried all these ways of coping with my anxiety but nothing seems to be working. This place feels helpless and vulnerable to some of us while it may feel bleak for others.
Yet sometimes, it is not so much what we are doing that is not helping. It is the attitude we go into doing these activities that needs some adjustment.
Have a different relationship with anxiety
In the article on existential anxiety, we mentioned that anxiety is part of being human. Whether we are conscious of it or not, anxiety is present in all of us. There is a purpose to all emotions, anxiety included. Anxiety is those up swinging emotions that makes us want to do something about our lives. It gears our body up for the things we aspire to achieve. It can be seen as a creative energy that challenges us to be more inventive with how we want to go about life.
Seen in this perspective, anxiety is not something to be eliminated but merely managed. We have to reconsider if anxiety deserves to be thrown away since it can be good for us. Rather, it is more about sitting more comfortably with anxiety, letting it to teach us what life is asking of us while not allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by it.
Sometimes, when we are overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety, we feel like it is all we can think about. Our anxiety becomes us and we become anxiety.
The Buddhist teaching of bearing witness can aid in our awareness that we are more than just our anxiety. It allows us to say
‘I feel anxious. I have anxiety. I am being anxious. But I am not anxiety. I am more than my anxiety.’
Some of you may be wondering, ‘how does this work?’
Try to imagine this: you are looking at a cloud in the sky. You who notices the cloud is not the cloud but the observer. Next, move your attention to another object around you. The fact that you can identify it means that you are not the object. This is the same with our anxiety. When we watch anxiety come and go within us, we become witnesses of the emotion. We are not the emotion.
This is a healthy way to look at anxiety or even other difficult emotions as it allows us to honour its presence. Yet, we do not need to identify ourselves as anxiety. Our lives are more than just our feelings. We are also formed by our values.
Write it down
Can you allow your anxiety to motivate and guide you to a more authentic and purposeful life? What can your anxiety teach you about your relationship with yourself, others and your world around you? Jotting all your thoughts and feelings about these questions in your journal can be a helpful way to find out how to cope with your anxiety in your own unique way.
Talk to a therapist
When you have exhausted all the options and none is not helping, you can consider seeing a therapist or counsellor. There are many forms of therapy out there and each therapist works differently with their own style and specialization.
For a very general idea of how different therapy works, you can read the previous article on ‘Do all therapists work in the same way? How do I choose my therapist?’
There are a few types of talk therapy that we recommend for anxiety issues:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) specializes in helping you understand how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feeling and behavior. It teaches you coping skills to cope with specific issues.
- Existential Therapy focuses in helping clients to reconnect with their meanings in the face of anxiety. See our article on ‘There is no one way to live’ for more information about this kind of therapy.
- Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy using the creative process in a safe therapeutic space to improve psychological and emotional health. It is open to all – art experience or skills are not required. It may be a transformative intervention for people with anxiety, especially if they have difficulties verbalising their struggles, or if they tend to be overwhelmed by emotions or ruminations.
- EMDR Therapy is the therapeutic intervention recommended when anxiety and panic attacks stem from traumatic experiences and memories. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing: it is an evidence-based modality used to address adverse life experiences that contribute to disruptive symptoms in present living.
- Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of therapy that helps individuals to focus on two key concepts -acceptance and commitment. It aims to help individuals accept what is out of their control (e.g. the presence of anxiety), and commit to actions that are in line with their values (e.g. going to a family dinner). Thus, the focus of ACT is not to change or reduce the frequency of anxious thoughts and feelings and bodily sensations, but to reduce the struggle with these experiences. The practice of ACT is also very much based on mindfulness, so ACT interventions could include the practice of mindfulness exercises.
Specialising in providing existential therapy to those going through major transitions in life. Individual and group therapy available.
Who else could help?
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS)
24-hour suicide prevention hotline
24-hour emotional support to those in crisis.
Institute of Mental Health (IMH)
+65 6389 2000
Offers a range of counselling and rehabilitative services to people of all ages
Tinkle Friend helpline (by Singapore Children’s Society)
chat online at www.tinklefriend.com (for primary school children)
+65 6757 7990
Helps people to cope with mental health conditions arising from anxiety and depression
Care Corner counselling Centre
1800-353 5800 (for Mandarin speaking clients)
A non-profit, charitable organisation offering counselling services for lower-income families across Singapore.
Sage Counselling Centre
+65 6354 1191
Specialising in counselling services for the elderly (aged above 50) and their caregivers
+658157 5876/ +65 8798 4519
A practice offering multilingual therapists and a safe, compassionate space to find ways to recover strength, resilience and joy.
Gentle Mind Counselling and Psychotherapy
+65 9818 1963
Employ cognitive strategies to identify self-defeating emotional and behavioural patterns and cultivate emotional resilience
The Psychotherapy Clinic
+65 8828 4006
A private practice with a desire to BRIDGE TRUST and BUILD HOPE into the lives of those that are challenged in their current life stage
Sofia Wellness Clinic
+65 8368 3591
Sofia Wellness Clinic offers counselling and psychotherapy services based on positive psychology for teenagers and adults to help them overcome life challenges and flourish as individuals.