I Interviewed a Clinical Therapist and Learned Some Tips and Tricks to Combat Anxiety .
Dr. Laura Berssenbrugge, Psy.D, specializes in treating anxiety and other mood disorders such as OCD, depression, and bipolar disorder, among others. She treats adults, young adults, and children by providing cognitive-behavioral treatments (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
Dr. Laura Berssenbrugge is also one of my good friends, and I had the pleasure of chatting with her via video chat during the Coronavirus pandemic. You can check out the interview by clicking the video above.
“Uncertainty Breeds Anxiety”
Jasmine (myself): “Have you noticed since March, since the beginning of the pandemic, an increase in anxiety?”
Dr. Berssenbrugge: “Yes, anxiety and chronic stress, typically if something is coming up for a patient that might lead to anxiety - there is time to prepare - put a plan in place so that symptoms are manageable.
In March, there was no time to prepare. One day everything seemed fine, and the next day the world turned upside down.”
Since the Coronavirus started, Dr. Berssenbrugge has been doing lots of work with her clients on what they can do if their sense of safety feels threatened or what they can do when they feel like they are losing control.
There’s this macro level in the world, which is more worldly. As the collective macro world seems to be out of control in 2020, it can be overwhelming. There’s also a micro level, which is the individual level. That’s where routine work and consistency are significant.
If we can accept the macro world for what it is and focus on changing and balancing our micro world, our anxiety will lessen.
Take care of yourself and check in frequently.
Jasmine: “What are some tips you can share with us to manage anxiety at home?”
Dr. Berssenbrugge: “ First and foremost, prioritize taking care of yourself. What does self-care really mean? Beneath the bells and whistles of what self-care has become is really just the concept of meeting yourself where you are at right now.
That can even mean just checking in with yourself and say hey, how am I feeling in the moment?
I think too often sometimes we forget to do that initial step of just checking in -So we might say okay, I have this really big agenda for the day - why am I not meeting it? When that happens its often because we didn’t do the initial check-in. How am I feeling?
We are going to have ups and downs - and that’s okay. I call it a mindfulness check in - periodically throughout the day, I recommend my clients check in with themselves. - how am I feeling? What am I thinking? Based on that, what do I want to be doing? Be honest with yourself.”
Accept how you are feeling right now. On days you feel more anxious, step back, and press pause. Recognize that your priority should be to take care of yourself right now.
Are there things in your life that you might be causing more anxiety? Social media and the news are big ones. If you notice the news making you upset, it might be a good idea to limit your intake for a little bit and see how you feel.
Are there things in your life that might help you? Connection with others is super valuable and can help regulate emotions. Recognize how you feel and ask yourself if it might be a good idea to reach out for support.
Try one of many breathing techniques to calm your anxiety and bring your body to a balanced state.
Dr. Berssenbrugge: “Breathing is is such a wonderful skill - across different types of treatment. It’s in yoga; it’s in meditation, therapy, etc. It’s so simple, and it works. One way that it works is when we are feeling anxious or stressed - our heart rate rises. By taking deep breaths - helps to oxygenate the blood and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is a system in the body that is in charge of calming down the body. Deep Breathing helps to instill a sense of calm to the body.”
Cat-Cow Breathing: This is a great way to get your body moving with your breath. You can get on your hands and knees like a table or in a seated position. On each inhale, you are going to move your spine inward towards your naval and lookup. On each exhale, bring your spine back into an arch, and your head comes down.
This exercise is great for relieving tension along the spine.
Box Breathing: I want you to imagine you are drawing a square. On the first side, breath in and hold for four seconds. The top of the square, hold the breath for four seconds. The next side, breath out for four seconds. The bottom of the square, hold for four seconds. Repeat this as many times as you want, visualizing a square with your breath.
Not only is this a great technique to teach kids, but it’s also used by the Navy Seals daily.
Soothe your anxiety with the five senses.
Dr. Berssenbrugge recommends that everyone creates a self soothe kit. It’s a kit that is readily accessible in your moments of anxiety or panic, and it is filled with your favorite things for each sense. What’s your favorite thing to smell? Taste? Touch? Listen to? See?
Maybe your kit has a candle, some Oreos, a soft blanket, a playlist title, and a sweet letter from a friend. Anything that helps you.
Check-in with your five senses.
This technique is a great way to ground yourself when experiencing a wave of anxiety. Ask yourself these questions.
- What are five things I can look at right now?
- What are four things I can touch?
- What are three things I can hear?
- What are two things I can smell?
- What is one thing I can taste?
The senses can be interchangeable; the order isn’t important. What is important is to bring you back to the present moment, which this exercise does.
Through these uncertain times, it’s essential to know you are not alone. You are not alone in your anxiety, your fear, and your worries. This is an unprecedented time on the planet. Be kind to yourself. You’re doing great.
You can learn more and contact Dr. Laura Berssenbrugge here