Having suffered with my agoraphobia and anxiety for 13 years I have tried pretty much all the therapies and treatments going to combat anxiety. There are a few tips I’ve learned over the years to help make improvements and retrain the way I think that I found incredibly helpful and easy to implement. I wanted to share the best three with you.
1) Keep a journal
This is probably not the type of journal you would expect me to suggest. It’s an idea that was recommended to me be an amazing counsellor I was seeing in 2003. If your phobia and anxiety are in your mind for the majority of each day, you will understand that one of the main difficulties you face is how you stop thinking about how you are feeling. It is very hard and frustrating to switch off this inner focus. If you can relate to this, I would really recommend keeping a daily journal of everything that is going on around you. This is not a journal about your feelings, your activities or your thoughts, this is a journal about everything that is happening outside of you. Start to take notice of everything happening around you… the characters you see in the street, the lovely smell coming from the local deli store, the colour of the leaves on the trees, read the menus on restaurants as you pass them, watch the cars as they go by deciding which one you would like best… whatever you write, just make sure it’s about what is going on in the world around you, not in your own head. Over time you will train your mind to switch to focusing outside of you.
2) Distract yourself
Distraction is a great way to take your mind off how you are feeling. I have used a variety of distraction techniques over the years to take my focus away from how I am feeling. This has included taking a bottle of water everywhere with me, listening to the radio in my car or on headphones, or calling a friend for a general chat until anxious feelings subside. There are also natural remedies you can carry with you to take if you feel a bout of anxiety coming on. I use to carry a Rescue Remedy with me from the world famous Bach Centre. A herbal remedy in a small spray, allowing you to spray discreetly into your mouth for a fast effect on your symptoms. Whether a placebo or not, it did help as a method of distraction.
3) Focus on what you could achieve
Each time you feel ready to push yourself and take a step forward with your phobia, spend ten minutes listing all the benefits you will get if you make it through your phobia challenge. When recovering from my agoraphobia I have faced so many challenges with so many enjoyable benefits on the other side. For example, walking a long distance from home was difficult for me, but I focused on the positive things I would get from beating this challenge, such as taking the dog and a picnic of my favourite foods down to the river with friends. I focused on how much I would enjoy this and really wanted to do this, using it as a motivator to challenge my phobia. Don’t forget that you always have a choice. Your phobia may have stopped you in the past but don’t automatically think you can’t do something – break that negative habit by spending some time focusing on the enjoyable benefits you could get and perhaps consider saying yes.