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4 Key Phrases That Help Me Manage Anxiety

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I have learned a lot of tools and skills to help manage my anxiety. I have also learned a few key phrases that have stuck with me, that I use when I’m feeling anxious. I want to share these with you, hoping they will stick with you or will be passed along to someone else.

1. “Ride the wave.”

First off, this phrase is not mine! I learned this in my outpatient program. It basically means exactly how it sounds. If you imagine your anxiety as a wave, you’ll notice that the intensity will go up and down, just like a wave. A problem people have, including myself, is that we want to stop the wave altogether because no one likes the feeling of anxiety.

Some people respond to people having anxiety attacks by saying “think of something happy.” I’m going to be straight up with you; this does not help me. If all I had to do was think of something happy to end my anxiety, don’t you think I would have already done that by now? What you can say to someone having an anxiety attack is to tell them to ride the wave. That will let them know it’s OK to be feeling this way. You don’t have to be in control of it. Just keep riding the wave until it dies down. It always does, just like how waves always die out once they hit the shore.

2. “That’s not in my hula hoop.”

This is one of my current favorites. I learned it when I started therapy. One of the biggest factors of my anxiety is being worried about what other people thought of me. I would then come up with what they were thinking of me and believe it to be true. I came up with the worst thought they could have about me and that thought was on repeat every time I saw or thought about them. I was also a peacemaker, and I still am — I wanted to help fix everyone else’s problems and wanted everyone to get along. Can you guess how that worked out for me?

So, my therapist shared this saying with me. When she first told me it, I thought she was being goofy. However, you can imagine that everyone has their own figurative hula hoop. The hula hoop consists of you, your thoughts, your feelings, your problems. You can’t put other people’s thoughts, feelings or problems into your hula hoop.

Once this phrase kicked in, my obsessive thoughts about others slowed down. If I started to think about how someone might be thinking of me, I told myself “That’s not in my hula hoop” and moved on instead of obsessing over it. There is also a misconception with this phrase because it can make it sound like you’re a selfish person and don’t care about other people. I felt this way at first too. However, this is not the case. You can think about how other people view you, but it doesn’t belong in your hula hoop. It belongs in theirs. You can hear other people’s problems and help them fix it, but again that’s in their hula hoop and not yours. This phrase helps with those intrusive thoughts and feelings!

3. “It’s good enough.”

Now, this one I learned from my mom and would be effective for other perfectionists out there. I am guilty of being a perfectionist, even starting at a young age. Every day after school, when my brothers and I would be doing homework, I would spend a couple more hours than them because I wanted to make sure it was right. When I practiced pitching, I did all of my pitching homework, which sometimes consisted of 1,000 pitches in a week. I only counted the good ones until my pitching coach told me to count all of them. I had to read emails probably 10 times before I sent them out to make sure I had no grammatical errors. When I had guests over, I wanted everything to be spotless.

If I didn’t do something perfectly, I felt like a failure. I forgot what I was worried about, but I wanted to make sure it was perfect before my mom told me I sometimes have to say “it’s good enough” and move on with my life instead of obsessing over every little thing. This has helped me significantly and allows me to do tasks faster than normal. I recently used this when I was making my bed before my parents were coming over and it allowed me to move on to other parts of the house.

There is also a misconception with this phrase because it can make it sound like you’re striving to live an average life. This is not the case. I’m not saying to use this phrase in everything you do, but if you notice yourself getting anxious and then realize it’s not that big of a deal, then use it. Having this phrase in my back pocket helps with my perfectionism.

4. “It will pass.”

Ah, typing this phrase out gives me a sense of calmness because of what it means to me.

Last year, I started to have major anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. I had no idea what was wrong with me. In fact, the first time I had one, I thought I was having a heart attack. My vision became blurry, I was hyperventilating, I couldn’t talk and I fell to the ground. I thought I was going to die. At first, my husband had no idea what to do so he just hugged me. Then in my outpatient program, I learned this phrase. They told us anxiety attacks don’t last forever. In fact, they don’t even last that long. They can last, on average, up to a half hour. They feel so much longer though.

Knowing anxiety attacks will pass actually reduced my anxiety attack intensities because part of the attack was worrying if it would ever end. Once I learned this phrase, I shared it with my husband so the next time I had one, he could tell me this. The first time he told me this, I got frustrated because I didn’t believe it was going to end. However, it did. After a few times, this phrase started to click for me.

Hearing or thinking this phrase may make you frustrated at first because it might sound like you’re belittling the attack. This phrase isn’t meant to belittle any way you’re feeling, but it’s for you to use when you’re having an anxiety attack to help bring down the intensity or help manage it.

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Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Originally published: November 10, 2017
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