How to Cope More Effectively With Anxiety

How to Cope More Effectively With Anxiety

Are you tired of feeling weighed down by the relentless burden of anxiety? Does it seem like anxiety is constantly holding you back from enjoying life to the fullest? If you’re struggling with the impact of anxiety on your mental health, relationships, and daily functioning, you’re not alone. Anxiety can be overwhelming and debilitating, affecting millions of people worldwide.  There are practical coping strategies that can help you overcome the challenges of anxiety and learn how to cope more effectively.

Why do we Experience Anxiety

Anxiety is a complex emotional and physiological response to perceived threats or stressors. It involves the activation of the body’s stress response system, which is designed to prepare the body to respond to potential dangers. When we are feeling anxious, our body has shifted from the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” system, to the sympathetic branch of the nervous system, also known as the “fight, flight, freeze or fawn” system.  The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for preparing the body to respond to perceived threats or stressors by initiating the stress response and is activated during times of stress, danger, or intense physical activity.

There are two pathways to the activation of our stress response one is through our prefrontal cortex (the logic centre of our brain that is located iin the forhead region over our eyes) and the other is activated through the amygdala/thalamus (although the amygdala is actually involved in both paths). The amygdala pathway is often referred to as the “low road” (see video below by Russ Harris) and when the brain detects a sensory message of danger via the thalamus, it automatically sends this information to the amygdala.  The amygdala then shares the message and rapidly activates the other parts of our brain and our body to prepare itself to respond to a threat with a fight, flight or freeze response with the release of cortisol and adrenaline.  If a person notices that they are feeling anxious for no apparent reason, this is a sign that the amygdala pathway has been activated.  

The second pathway involves the prefrontal cortex, which is the thinking part of the brain.  This pathway into the stress response, known as the “high road”  is a response that is activated on a more conscious level through the evauation of information, either our thoughts or in our environment.  This danger can be real, remembered or percieved.  These thoughts from the prefrontal cortex then activate the stress response by sending a message to the amygdala about the danger that needs to be responded to.  

Watch this video below by Russ Harris who explains more about these pathways into the experience of anxiety.


Signs of Anxiety

Anxiety is a common and normal human emotion that we all feel from time to time. However, when anxiety becomes chronic or overwhelming, it can significantly impact our daily lives and relationships. Anxiety can manifest in a variety of ways, and symptoms can vary from person to person. Here are some common signs of anxiety to watch out for:

Physical Symptoms

Rapid heartbeat or palpitations

Sweating or trembling

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Dizziness or lightheadedness

Fatigue or muscle tension

Insomnia or difficulty sleeping

Emotional Symptoms

Feeling overwhelmed or out of control

Excessive worry or fear

Difficulty concentrating or focusing

Irritability or restlessness

Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations

Negative self-talk or self-doubt


How to Cope More Effectively with Anxiety

Here are some practical strategies that can help you cope more effectively with anxiety:

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves being present and fully engaged in the current moment, rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety symptoms.

2. Exercise Regularly

Physical activity can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters, and can help reduce stress and tension in the body.

3. Connect with Supportive People

Talking to trusted friends or family members about your anxiety can help you feel less alone and more understood. Consider joining a support group or seeking therapy to receive professional support and guidance.

4. Practice Self-Care

Self-care activities such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoy can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

5. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Negative self-talk and self-doubt can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Practice challenging these negative thoughts by focusing on evidence that supports positive beliefs about yourself and your abilities.

When to Seek Professional Help to Cope More Effectively With Anxiety

While these coping strategies can be helpful for managing anxiety, they may not be enough for everyone. If your anxiety is interfering with your daily life or you’re finding it difficult to manage on your own, consider seeking professional help. A therapist can provide additional support and guidance in managing anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety is a common experience, but it doesn’t have to control your life. By recognizing the signs of anxiety and taking steps to manage it, you can feel more in control and improve your overall well-being. Consider incorporating some of these coping strategies into your daily routine and don’t hesitate to seek professional support if you need it.

If you’re struggling with anxiety and would like support in developing coping strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Restore Renew Revive Counselling & Couples Therapy. I am here to help. Contact us at 902-702-7722 or visit our website at to learn more.

Silence Your Inner Critic

Silence Your Inner Critic

We all have an inner critic.  What is an inner critic, you might ask?  Your inner critic is that voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough. It’s the voice that points out our flaws and shortcomings, and makes us feel inadequate or ashamed.

This voice may have developed in childhood from overly critical or negative parenting.  It may have developed as a result of childhood or relationship trauma.  Perhaps it seems like its only recently developed out of stressful workplace situations.  Regardless of the origin of your inner critic, learning to silence it, or at least not be led by it, is important.

While some degree of self-criticism can be helpful for self-improvement and growth, too much of it can be harmful to our mental health and well-being. Learning to silence your inner critic can be a difficult but important step in building a more positive relationship with yourself. In this post, we’ll explore some of the reasons why it’s hard to silence your inner critic, and offer some strategies for overcoming it.

The Problem of Self-Criticism

Self-criticism can be a pervasive and damaging pattern of thinking that can impact our self-esteem, relationships, and overall well-being. Whether it’s negative self-talk, perfectionism, people pleasing, or avoiding asking for your needs to be met in relationships, self-criticism can take many forms and can be a difficult pattern to break.

For many women, self-criticism can be a pervasive and damaging pattern of thinking that can impact their self-esteem, relationships, and overall well-being. Their inner critic is constantly judging and criticizing them, focusing on all their flaws and mistakes, and leaving them feeling inadequate or insecure. 

The Perfectionism Trap

You may believe that by being hard on yourself, you can prevent failure and achieve success. Failure feels as though it’s a personal flaw or a reflection of your worth as a person and the solution to this is to dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘t’ to make sure you get it right.  While perfectionism may feel like a safe coping strategy that will help you avoid disappointing yourself and others, it is in fact a trap.  

While in the short term it may have some pay offs (which is why people continue to do it), in the long run this can sabotage your ability to achieve your goals.  Kristen Neff, a leading researcher on self compassion has found that “people who are compassionate to themselves are much less likely to be depressed, anxious, and stressed, and are much more likely to be happy, resilient, and optimistic about their future. In short, they have better mental health.” By recognizing the ways in which perfectionism contributes to self-criticism, we can begin to shift towards a more self-compassionate mindset.



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Silence Your Inner Critic

Here are 5 strategies to help you cope more effectively with your inner critic;

1. Practice Mindfulness

Over time, your inner critic can become a deeply ingrained pattern of thought that feels automatic and difficult to control. You may have been criticizing yourself for years, and it can be hard to break the cycle. Your brain is wired to reinforce patterns of thought and behavior that are repeated over time, which is why breaking a habit can be so challenging. To overcome this, you need to create new neural pathways by practicing new patterns of thought and behavior. In order to silence your inner critic, you must first become aware of it. You cannot change what you are not aware of, right? And this is where mindful self-awareness comes in.

One strategy for breaking the habit of self-criticism is to become more aware of your inner dialogue. Start paying attention to the thoughts that go through your head throughout the day.  Mindfulness is really just the practice of being present in the moment and observing our thoughts and feelings without judgment. By cultivating mindfulness, we can become more aware of our self-critical thoughts and learn to respond to them in a more compassionate and balanced way. In addition, mindfulness teaches us that we are not our thoughts, we are the observer of them. Notice when you’re being self-critical and allow those thoughts to pass withouth holding onto them or idnetifying with them. This is a powerful shift that can change your life.

2. Diffuse from the Inner Critic

When we notice a self-critical thought, we can try not to hold onto it so tightly. This is referred to as diffusion in ACT (Acceptance and Committment Therapy) . Steven Hayes is a prominent psychologist and the founder of ACT.  In his work, Hayes has emphasized the role of the “inner critic,” According to Hayes, the inner critic is a normal and natural part of the human experience, but it can become problematic when we start to believe its messages and allow it to dictate our behavior. In ACT, the goal is not to eliminate the inner critic, but rather to learn to relate to it in a different way, so that it has less power over our thoughts and behaviour.

When you’re caught up in your inner critic’s thoughts, it can be hard to see them for what they are – just thoughts. Defusion techniques can help you step back from your thoughts and observe them from a more objective perspective. Some defusion techniques include:

  • Saying your thoughts out loud in a silly voice
  • Imagining your thoughts written on a cloud that floats away
  • Thanking your inner critic for its input, but acknowledging that you don’t need it right now

3. Embrace Imperfection

Perfectionism can be a major source of self-criticism, so learning to embrace imperfection is an important step towards reducing self-criticism. By accepting that mistakes and flaws are a natural part of the human experience, we can let go of the need to be perfect and focus on self-acceptance instead.

Part of embracing imperfection is also refusing to fall into the comparison trap. In a world where 24/7 social media would have us believe that everyone else is smarter, thinner, richer and generally better than we are, it’s hard not to compare ourselves to others. But doing so only gives your inner critic weapons to use against you.

Russ Harris is a well-known author and therapist who is also a leader in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). In his book “The Happiness Trap,” Harris emphasizes the importance of avoiding the comparison trap, which is the tendency to compare ourselves to others and judge our worth based on external standards or achievements.

According to Harris, the comparison trap can be a major source of unhappiness and dissatisfaction, as it creates a constant sense of inadequacy and a never-ending cycle of striving for more. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, Harris suggests focusing on our own values and goals, and striving to live in accordance with them, regardless of how others may be doing. This helps us to embrace our imperfections but also to live more fully as the person we want to be.



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4. Cultivate Self-Compassion

You would never treat others the way you treat yourself. Begin to treat yourself with the compassion you would a small child or a friend in need. No one is perfect. But all of us are worthy of love, kindness and respect. By learning how to show ourselves more love, kindness and respect through the practice of self-compassion.

 Kristin Neff is a pioneering researcher in the field of self-compassion and has developed a model of self-compassion that includes three core components:


Self-Kindness: Being warm and understanding towards ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than being harshly self-critical.


Common Humanity: Recognizing that suffering and feelings of inadequacy are a natural part of the human experience, rather than feeling isolated or alone in our struggles.


Mindfulness: Observing our thoughts and feelings with openness and curiosity, rather than getting lost in them or suppressing them.


Neff has found that increased self-compassion carries all the benefits of self-esteem (happiness, less depression, etc.) but without any of the down sides (not sustainable and can lead to narcissistic qualities).   Social Researcher Brene Brown notes that self-compassion helps increase our likelihood of being more vulnerable and able to connect with others.  Here are some interesting clips of Kristen and Brene talking together about self -esteem and self-compassion 

On her website,  Kristin Neff offers a number of beautiful  exercises and practices for cultivating self-compassion, including guided meditations, journaling prompts, and other tools that can help individuals learn to treat themselves with greater kindness and understanding. 


Seek Support

Finally, it’s important to remember that overcoming self-criticism is a process that can take time and effort. Seeking support from a therapist or counsellor can be an invaluable resource for learning to manage self-criticism and developing more self-compassion.  If you’re tired of hearing that nagging voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough therapy can help you break free from a loud inner critic and negative self-talk and cultivate a more positive mindset. Discover practical tips and strategies for quieting your inner critic and embracing self-love and acceptance.  

If you are struggling with self-criticism and would like support in cultivating greater self-compassion and a more balanced perspective in your thought life, Restore Renew Revive Counselling & Couples Therapy is here to help. Don’t let your inner critic hold you back from the life you were created for. Contact us at 902-702-7722 or visit our website at to learn more and schedule an appointment today.

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