Top 5 ways to cope with anxiety when you can’t afford therapy
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“For a long time, I could not shut the voice in my head that kept saying, ‘You can’t.’
That pounding heart has always been an uninvited guest before my important meetings and presentations. It took me a while to figure out that anxiety was the reason behind those uncontrollable palpitations and the world going blank suddenly. Finally, however, I sought therapy, and now my voice is the loudest in the room and not the one in my mind.” – Saritha
According to Statista, every seventh Indian is affected by some form of mental disorder, and anxiety disorders reflect the highest share after idiopathic intellectual disability and depressive disorders.
First things first, anxiety is normal and motivates us in most cases. But anxiety can affect all areas of our life, and high-stress levels are never healthy. While Saritha understood and dealt with her anxiety through support from therapy, not everyone could afford therapy. Is therapy or medication the only way? Definitely not. That’s why we’ve devised some proven ways to cope with anxiety.
Self-empowerment from books
Finances may prevent you from accessing therapy, but you can receive help in other ways. Try to empower yourself with knowledge about mental health. There are self-help books and memoirs from those who have lived through the experience.
Abineethi RM, the Founder of Thoughts & U Counseling, says that reading books about anxiety and access to the right resources are of great help to self analyze and understand where one is coming from.
Unwinding Anxiety by Dr.Judson Brewer, a renowned psychiatrist, and neuroscientist, is one example. Brewer, in his book, teaches us how to break free from anxiety with powerful practices.
Another great book is Anxiety: Overcome It and Live Without Fear by clinical psychologist Sonali Gupta. Sonali offers a unique glimpse into mental wellness in India, especially among Gen Z and millennials. In this book, she has recommended strategies and techniques for readers to confront their fears and take control of their life.
Most of the time, how we perceive things makes a huge difference. Anxiety is not supposed to be perceived as evidence of brokenness.
However, Sherly Paul, in her book The Wisdom of Anxiety, says that anxiety is evidence of our sensitive heart, our imaginative mind, and our soul’s desire to grow toward wholeness. Perfectly put-together practical practices and personal stories make this book a great read.
Here’s a short list of other self-help books for people with anxiety that are comforting and reassuring:
- How to Stop Overthinking: Living a Relaxed and Stress Free Life by Parth Taneja, where he put down the practices and solutions he tried to overcome years of overthinking.
- The Comfort Book by bestselling author Matt Haig, which he calls a collection of consolations learned in hard times and suggestions for making the bad days better.
- Anxiety Cure by Klaus Bernhardt is to help you to take control and claim your life back.
- Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion by Dr. Wendy Suzuki is an inspiring guidebook for managing unwarranted anxiety based on her experiences and extensive research.
Use anxiety tools
From doodling to coloring, there are many options to help manage your anxiety. Abineethi mentions that hobbies are a great way to calm yourself as it resists overthinking.
You can try online doodling classes to learn the art of doodling. Zentangling is also popular and has a more mindful component that separates it from doodling. The Zentangle method claims to promote concentration and focus while also enhancing creativity.
And if doodling or Zentangling is not the thing for you, try coloring.
Coloring has a calming effect and is an easy way to shift your mind to the present. Coloring is not just for kids. There are now coloring books available for adults for peace and relaxation.
While these are some effective tools in managing anxiety, you can always pick up other hobbies, such as cooking or gardening. Being outdoors and exercising is beneficial in releasing endorphins to alleviate some of the anxiety.
Research shows that at least 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week can significantly improve anxiety symptoms by increasing the availability of anti-anxiety neurochemicals such as serotonin, GABA, and endocannabinoids.
Practice mindfulness and meditation
“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it” – Khalil Gibran.
Easy for Gibran to say, you might think. Mindfulness may not always be the panacea for those who live with anxiety. This study found that 8% of people experienced increased anxiety after practicing meditation.
Awareness of anxious thoughts can often make you even more nervous. But over the long run, mindfulness and meditation are supportive tools that help us get in touch with our body sensations and be aware of our thoughts without always following them.
The grounding technique, also called the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique, is also an easy and effective mindfulness practice for anyone to start with. The method utilizes your senses to bring you more awareness of the present moment.
Here’s how it goes:
- Observe five things you see around you.
- Next, observe any four things you can touch. This could be the chair you are sitting on, its texture or the table, the skin on your hands, the feel of your clothes.
- The third step is to pay attention to any three sounds around you – the sound of the ceiling fan or the birds chirping outside the window.
- Observe two things that you can smell. It could be something cooking in the kitchen or the smell of fresh laundry.
- Observe one thing you can taste.
We also suggest raisins on your mindfulness journey. With just a handful of raisins, you can achieve an effect similar to the 5,4,3,2,1. To practice this, take a couple of raisins and bring all your awareness to how they look. While you can use any type of food to practice, raisins have bumps and bruises on their surfaces, making it easier. Next, close your eyes and hold the raisins in your hand. Observe their texture. How do they feel in your hand? After that, raise the raisins to your nose. Pause. Inhale. What do they smell like? Finally, observe the sensation of taste. When you feel your mind is wandering, bring it back to the exercise.
While these are a couple of mindfulness practices, here are 22 mindful exercises, techniques, and activities to help one cope with anxiety.
Jotting down your feelings and emotions can help find the root cause of anxiety. Sometimes not seeing the reason behind the anxiety will make you go round and round the same pattern. So, don’t hesitate to write it down.
There are specific anxiety journals with prompts to help you understand your thought processes. However, you don’t have to invest in a fancy journal. A simple notebook and pen work just fine as well.
Join a support group
Community support groups are a way to connect with others going through a similar experience. Your organization might have such a support group, or you can also find one online. Many apps also offer you the support of listening groups. If you need to be heard, 7 Cups Of Tea provides free one-on-one support. The Tribe is another safe space with numerous peer-to-peer support groups, including this one for anxiety. SupportGroups is also a safe online network with a free forum for many issues.
Abineethi mentions that NGOs offer free counseling sessions for people in need. Vandrevala Foundation and Arpita Foundation provide free mental health support over phone calls and workshops. There are also other ways to get professional help for free. For example, masters in psychology and psychotherapy students provide free counseling sessions under proper supervision as part of their internship. Also, most therapists have a certain number of slots for pro bono therapy sessions, where they offer therapy sessions for free or at a lower cost. So, don’t hesitate to seek help whenever necessary.
The final verdict?
Living with anxiety is not that easy. If you are reading this, it means that you are looking for help, and that is always a good thing. Anxiety can affect us, but it can also be managed.