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BOOKS by Ellen


"Behind These Eyes
..One Agoraphobic's
Journey To A
Meaningful Life"

"Coexisting With Agoraphobia, Anxiety and Panic Attacks"

 

 

 

"If all of life
with all its meanings
were tied up with a rope....
The center force,
which is the knot,
would certainly be
HOPE."

 

 

Coping Skills ...or the

Agoraphobic's Toolbox!

 

It seems to me that we all have "something" in this life. We all have our crosses to bear and mountains to climb. It is helpful, if not wise, to have at our disposal a collection of things (tools) that can help up cope in difficult and distressful situations. Sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to find out what actually works for us. Then again at times one thing will work and the next time it may not, which is why it is a good idea to have a large assortment of aids to pick from. Over the years I have built a fairly large collection of helpful tools and have written them down, because in the times when I am the most anxious I often can't even remember what my tools are let alone to use them. Some of the things that may help me when I am very stressed or anxious are:

1. Breathing Exercises: I have found that using some simple breathing exercises can slow my body (heart rate) and mind (racing /catastrophic thoughts) down. I find that I can think better and often the anxiety will subside after only a 5 or 10 minute session. The simplest exercise that I learned is to just breathe in and out to a count of 4. Do this evenly for as long as it takes to get you into a better place. There are many more elaborate exercises that you can find on the internet that might work for you. I have recently started doing something called "alternate nostril breathing" that helps me enormously to get a rested night's sleep for example. Search around on the internet and see  if any of the exercises work for you.

2. Positive Self -Talk: I have noticed that mostly what I believe to be true IS. If I tell myself something is horrible or a disaster it certainly turns out to be, at least in my eyes. People with anxiety often need /want to be comforted and reassured by others that they will be ok. When we are scared and panicky we often desperately think we NEED someone else to tell us that everything will have a good outcome and that we will survive the current perceived trauma. The truth is, it seems to me, that it is what WE tell ourselves that really matters. Our belief about a certain situation is what affects us. When we learn to calm ourselves down we have a tool that will always be available to us! Along the same lines, if we tell ourselves that we cannot ever be a whole person if we can't drive to or go into the grocery store (for example) then that will be our reality. If, on the other hand, we can decide to not buy into what society seems to tell us is "normal" and focus on what we CAN do on any given day our whole perspective about who we are can change. It is my belief that who we are as people (our inner life) is much more important than what we do or how far we can travel (outer life). And...if it be true that inner life is at least as important (if not more important) than outer life, you can be a whole person without ever leaving your bed or recliner!  So, try on different perspectives and see how talking lovingly and supportively to yourself can make a difference in how you feel and view your world.

3. Put Your Anxiety in The Background: I can hear you all now....lol That seems like an impossibility, and at time it is. What I am suggesting is that each and every day not be totally focused on your anxiety level and how you did /did not get somewhere. I am suggesting that one learn to co-exist with "it." I am suggesting that there is life outside of it, if you only give it a chance to develop. For decades I got up, put the key in the car and focused only on if I could even get around the block that day. If  I couldn't I felt like a failure and the disappointment coupled with the exhaustion of the energy spent (anxiety can be exhausting) left me with not much interest in the rest of my day. I started just getting up and focusing on what I really WANTED to do. If that included going out fine, and if it didn't that was fine too. As a result I ended up developing my creativity (most agoraphobics are very intelligent and creative) and found myself developing a home-based business and writing and doing all kinds of FUN things. My focal point was NOT on anxiety...it was on building my life to be the best it could be with what I had to work with.

4. ACCEPTANCE: Acceptance might be the most important tool in my toolbox! It was a word I learned years ago from Dr. Claire Weakes who was a specialist in agoraphobia. She continually suggested that acceptance was the key to dealing with this condition. Instead of getting up every day hoping and praying that the anxiety is GONE, or perhaps more to the point, fearing that is not, if you just ACCEPT what is that day and not try to swim upstream so-to-speak, life can be much more peaceful. Acceptance is not the same as "giving in."  Acceptance just means that you are willing to roll with WHATEVER comes up that day or with however you feel. Promise yourself you will do you best each day to accomplish what you can and be the best person you can and let the rest just fall where it may!

5. DISTRACTIONS: Distracting yourself from the anxiety that is going on in the present moment can be most helpful. Sometimes I can get lost in my work, especially if I am involved in a creative project. I try to find something that requires a lot of concentration and see if I can redirect my attention and energy there. I love electronic gadgets so if I have something that needs figuring out in order to use one of them I often will do that at those times. Of course there are times when anxiety is just so high it is hard to concentrate on much of anything. In those moments just trying to walk it off or do some form of exercise might help. The key about tools is to keep trying all that you have until you get to something that helps. That is why it is so important to have a wide variety to work with.

6. MEDITATION/ RELAXATION: I can't emphasize the importance of practicing some kind of meditation or relaxation technique enough. Learning to bring our bodies and minds down to a low level of excitation is so very important. Meditation has become very popular these days and it is widely known that many infamous people and leaders make it a point to do some form of meditative practice for at least 20-30 minutes each day. Many people claim that they simply cannot sit still and shut down their minds no matter how hard they try. Meditation, however, can take many forms. You can look into traditional methods and various yoga practices, but simply "being" with nature or listening to soothing, soul-touching music can be meditative. Holding your pet close and just cuddling for awhile can have similar results. Keep trying different things to see what works for you.

 

Please feel free email me with anything that works for you!