When we start to see new clients that are struggling with anxiety and depression, they often hope to find some type of immediate relief for the symptoms they are feeling. Although the therapeutic process does take some time, there are some things we can recommend.
One of the topics I often cover in the first few sessions with a client is capacity. The way I describe capacity is by relating it to a gas tank. We all have this tank within us, we have things in our life that help to put gas in the tank (known as inputs) and things that take out of the tank (known as outputs). Some example of inputs include exercising, meeting with a friend, taking a long hot bath, or watching a funny movie. Examples of outputs include going to work, taking care of a household, caring for children, worries about past events, worries about bills, and so on.
As we go though life, one of the most important things to do is to ensure we are balancing our inputs and outputs to ensure we have the capacity (or enough gas in our tanks) to make it through each day. When we neglect our inputs and allow our tanks to run dry, we begin to feel the symptoms of anxiety and depression. One of the best things you can do to feel better right now and as you go through the therapeutic process, is to ensure you are engaging in more inputs. Take the time out of your day to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it actually helps to ensure that you are going to be a better version of yourself for those around you.
Always remember, you are worth the time and you deserve to feel good.
In addition to the idea of capacity, clients are often looking for strategies to use when they are experiencing more severe symptoms of anxiety. I like to recommend using the TIPP skills. TIPP stands for temperature, intense exercise, paced breathing, and paired muscle relaxation. When we experience intense symptoms of anxiety it is often because something has triggered the protection part of our brains, known as the limbic system. This is the part of the brain responsible for the fight, flight, freeze response. To help de-activate this response we can use the TIPP skills. For temperature I recommend taking a cold shower, putting a cold compress on the back of your neck, splashing cold water on your face, or even holding ice cubes in your hands. For intense exercise you can go for a walk or a run outside, or do jumping jacks. One way to practice paced breathing is to do square breathing. Square breathing involves taking a breath in for a count of four, holding it for four, exhaling for four and then holding again for four. Progressive muscle relaxation involves taking a moment to relax each different part of your body starting at your toes and moving up to your shoulders. Tense each muscle for a count of three and then release. Use these skills to help with the symptoms of anxiety while you work with your clinician to help heal the cause of the anxiety. And always remember, there is hope, you can feel better.
Amy Shaw, MSW, RSW
B. Skinner Coaching & Psychotherapy