Anxiety and Stress Management

Suggestions For Coping With Panic & Anxiety

  1. Breath deeply: As you inhale count slowly to three, pause. As you exhale count slowly to three, pause. Repeat cycle at least five more times. Use a combination of strategies such as: positive self talk, slow breathing, imagining yourself floating and flowing, progressive muscle relaxation.
  2. Do not try to deny the feelings of anxiety when first you experience them.
  3. Do not try to wish them away. Face them; notice them; acknowledge them.
  4. See if the thoughts on which you are focusing are “have to’s,’ should’s” and “musts.”
  5. Avoid getting angry with yourself for experiencing what you are experiencing. To do so is to fight fire with fire.
  6. Watch what is happening inside you. Carefully observe symptoms of these sorts: physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral. Panic and anxiety are like waves; they come, they go; they come, they go.
  7. Stay in the present, in the “here-and-now” as much as possible.
  8. Ask yourself, “If this is the worst it gets, can I stand it?” The answer is likely to be “yes” even though, of course you would rather it went away.
  9. Reflect on the past only to the extent that it gives positive shape to the present. For example – convert old hurts into supportive insights and learning and/or return to the present.
  10. Only reflect on the future to the extent that it gives positive shape to the present. Either develop plans for what you will do, and/or come back to”here-and-now.”
  11. Don’t fight the panic by trying to reason it away. What that leads to is negative thinking which almost always makes things worse.
  12. When you begin to feel better, that is, when the anxiety has subsided, get on with the task at hand, whatever it is that needs doing at the moment. Focus on a simple, manageable task. And, proceed slowly because hurried effort, trying too hard to catch up, can be counter-productive.
  13. When the anxiety is behind you, review the experience and how you dealt with it. Think of it as an opportunity for your growth. Notice what worked and what didn’t work to help you through the anxiety.
  14. Give yourself credit for how far you’ve come and for having overcome feelings that felt as though they would be your undoing.
  15. Find the positives in your life, your strengths, your steadfast ideals and principles. Celebrate them.

For further information and help in dealing with anxiety, see our Brandon University counsellors. For an appointment with them, call 204-727-9737 or come by the Student Services office in the McKenzie Building, Room 102. You will also find helpful information in the “Personal Counselling” section of the Brandon University website.

Dealing With Crunch Time Stress

“Too much work and not enough time. That’s what stresses me out,” says one student. another agrees.” It’s all about time and I just keep running out of it.” It’s the essay and exam crunch and university students are dealing with increased stress and anxiety. But, even though students are aware of the health side effects of stress, they have difficulty slowing down and dealing with the influx of assignments and exams in November and December first term, March and April in second term.

“When I get very stressed, my body gets tired a lot. It’s almost like my body would rather shut down than deal with the assignments.” Some even get sick. A student jokes while nursing her cold: “Not sleeping for like, four nights, wasn’t the best choice. I’m trying to do a lot at once and juggling everything.” Time management is one of the most important factors in easing stress during the busy months of the academic year. Students are wise to look at long-range planning, to parcel out work over weeks, rather than hours. It’s also wise for them to make the most of what time they do have.

Having strategies to deal with anxieties and accomplishments can be helpful. In fact, research indicates students who write about their lives have 50 per cent less colds during the academic year. Other suggestions to reduce stress are spending at least 30 minutes each day in natural sunlight, limiting caffeine intake (which can increase feelings of anxiety), increasing exercise such as yoga and either playing or listening to music.

Many students know what they should be doing to combat stress but have difficulty putting it into action. BU has counselling services to help with stress- and anxiety- related problems, including depression. Call 727-9737 for an appointment with one of our counsellors.

Modified from: Dealing with “crunch time” stress by Julia Skikavich, Special to Schoolfinder.com

Managing Performance Anxiety

(Adapted from Robin Abraham & Katherine Schneider, U. of Wisconsin, Eau-Claire)

Performance anxiety is caused both by the ways we think and feel. This information will give you new ways to try to optimize your level of anxiety. One way to feel less anxious is to discover and change thinking patterns that put too much pressure on you. Look at the list of cognitive distortions below and pick one or two that you use often, then brainstorm realistic alternative thoughts that you could use instead.

Definition of Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are logical, but they are not rational. They can create real difficulty with your thinking. See if you are doing any of the ten common distortions that people use. Rate yourself from one to ten with one being low and ten being high. Ask yourself if you can stop using the distortions and think in a different way.

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  • Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as an unending pattern of defeat.
  • Mental Filter: You pick out one negative detail and dwell on it so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, as when a drop of ink discolours an entire glass of water.
  • Disqualifying the Positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  • Jumping to Conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
  • Mind Reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out
  • The Fortuneteller Error: You can anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
  • Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization: You exaggerate the important things (such as your goof-up or someone elses achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the binocular trick.
  • Emotional Reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  • Should Statements: You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn’t, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequences are guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
  • Labeling and Mislabeling: This is an extreme form of over generalization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself. “I’m a loser.” When someone elses behaviour rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him” “He’s a Goddamn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly coloured and emotionally loaded.
  • Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.

Prescriptions for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

  • De-stress, don’t distress, yourself
  • Don’t confuse anxiety with effort
  • Concretize, don’t awfulize.
  • Act “as if”
  • Be process, not product, oriented.
  • Rate your behaviour not your soul
  • Compare downward as well as upward
  • Rehearse a skill, not a symptom.
  • Don’t self-medicate.
  • De-sacredize, don’t idolize.
  • Use “Why not?” not “Why me?”
  • Participate, don’t self-spectate.
  • Stay in the moment.
  • Accept yourself, warts and all.
  • Give yourself permission to be.

Four Steps for Managing Performance Anxiety

Please Note: These steps are useful in other anxiety provoking situations such as when going to present a paper in class, or preparing for an exam.

  1. Self-Assessment:
    • Identify problematic thinking.
    • What are your personal motives for performing?
    • What are your capabilities and limitations as a performer?
    • Ask yourself: “What am I really afraid of?” Worst-case scenario-you run off the stage and everyone laughs hysterically. That’s unlikely, and might give you perspective into the realities of what it is you are really afraid of.
    • Try not to confuse self-assessment with self-criticism!
  2. Gradual Exposure and Preparation
    • Look for opportunities for exposure to mild to moderate stress that challenge but do not overwhelm your coping skills, example: visualization of the performance.
    • Other Examples: practice performances, dress rehearsals, taping yourself and playing back.
    • Be thoroughly prepared. Nothing replaces adequate time spent in rehearsal and practice.
    • Consider how the use of relaxation techniques can help to “harmonize” the body. Meditation, yoga, and/or muscle relation can help the body and mind feel uplifted and balanced so you feel excited and prepared, but not overwhelmed. Using these techniques can help you avoid self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
  3. During the performance
    • Rather than blocking out the audience, or seeing them in their underwear, try seeing them as allies who are generally supportive and want you to do well.
    • Remember, most performers have to contend with anxiety – it comes with the territory. Your ‘re in good company!
    • Feelings of anxiety are natural, and can be used to your advantage.
    • Maintain your normal routine when preparing a performance.
    • Act calmly, even if you feel nervous. The more you dwell on anxiety, the more you are likely to remain preoccupied with it.
    • Try to overlook minor errors when you perform. Overall impressions are more important to the audience than not-perfect performances.
    • Consider performing an opportunity by becoming immersed in the experience. For e.g.: Get out of yourself and into the audience. Try switching off the left-brain’s critical words and switching on the right brain’s passive observation. This may help you escape self-criticism and stay in the moment.
    • Enjoy what you’ve accomplished. Others are more likely to enjoy it this way too.
  4. After the Performance
    • Temper external feedback with internal beliefs and expectations you have already established.
    • Asking others afterward, “how did I do” without asking yourself first might be depriving yourself of a significant source of valid information about your performance: YOU.

If you would like to talk with a counsellor about your performance anxiety, please call to make an appointment at Student Services, 727-9737.

Further Information

Further helpful resources can be found at: