I had the fantastic opportunity to attend a CPD with Nettie at Challenging-Behaviour Counselling Services in Dunstable on Saturday 17th March.
As a trainee counsellor one of my interests is working creatively with some of the issues that clients bring to sessions. The CPD’s offered at Challenging-Behaviour are a good mix of psycho-education and creative exercises. Creative exercises that you can complete for yourself as an individual and then you can take these ideas away with you and apply them to client work.
One of the key ideas that I took from the day was asking the client to draw on an outline of a body whereabouts on the body they would normally notice symptoms of anxiety:
Now for some people this might be really challenging to identify what exactly is anxiety and what the signs of anxiety might be in their body. Some examples that I might put could include shaky legs, pounding heart, or a tight chest. You could draw pictures on your gingerbread man, use different colours and of course use different words.
Anxiety for other people might also include increased physical pain, muscle tension, light-headedness, headache. A feeling of nausea, or butterflies in the tummy etc…. This is where this exercise is useful, as the client can begin to recognise their unique experience of anxiety.
Strategies for coping with anxiety:
Once symptoms of anxiety arise, what can help?
Grounding yourself in the present moment can be helpful here. So looking around you, what can you see? What can you hear? What can you feel? Whether that be feeling your feet in contact with the floor, the touch of clothes on your skin, or having something soft and tactile to hold, for example a cuddly toy, stress ball etc…
Using the senses of your body as a means of checking out that you are safe in the here-and-now. As anxiety can often lead to a spiral of negative thoughts, castastrophising, or even a sense of impending doom. Using your body senses might be a useful means of reducing anxiety responses and reactions in the body before it gets to this stage.
Another useful immediate technique could be some simple breathing exercises. At it’s simplest it could be slowly breathing in for a count of 3 or 4 and then trying to double the out breath. I find that doing this technique for three to four breaths before returning to a normal breathing pattern, relaxes my body and I start to feel calmer.
Another breathing technique is 4, 7, 8 breathing as detailed on this webpage: https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/4-7-8-breathing-stress-relief-techniques.
A similar idea with using breathing to calm down the nervous system. This time you breath in for 4, hold your breath for 7 counts and then breathe out for 8.
Maybe try both techniques and see which one works best for you.
Don’t Feed the Worry Bug
One of the ideas we looked at was a storybook app called “Don’t Feed the Worry Bug”, shown here on a You Tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8aA-MQbT5A
Although this app is for children, I think some adults (including myself) will be very taken with this app. It is about a character called Wince, who feeds his worry bug with his anxieties until it becomes huge. On the app you can record your worries on there and then feed it to the bug who then eats them for you!!
I’d be really interested to hear from you, what you think about anxiety and maybe what strategies have worked for you when managing anxiety. Please get in touch.