How to Manage Anxiety – SIGH Technique

Manage Anxiety L3 Group Dr. Drain
Dr. L. Annette Drain-Alagbala (PhD, LPC, NCC) of L3 Group, LLC, Chicago

How to Manage Anxiety

When life happens, it can cause worry and anxiety about one thing frequently or many things at once.  Worry is the thought process about a particular instance. However, if a worry persists and interferes with daily life, it can create pervasive thoughts and emotions experienced as anxiety.

When you feel the anxiety rising within, try to S-I-G-H. *

Stop:  stop yourself.  Stay silent for however long it takes to prevent saying or doing something unnecessary or hurtful. Allow yourself to feel the bodily sensations rather than avoid, ignore, or criticize them. When able to recognize what is happening, it helps to stay connected with yourself to calm the intense feelings. With this step, you are stopping yourself from immediate verbal response or physical action.

Identify:  identify the physical and emotional aspects internally (i.e., trembling, pacing the floor back-and-forth, sleep or concentration disturbances, guilt, fear, and so forth). Being able to identify the inner physical and emotional arousal communicates to the mind to pay attention to the body, which could help stop or reduce the discouraging thought patterns and subsequent actions when anxious. In this step, think about why these bodily sensations have been triggered or intensified (i.e., identify the triggers to the anxiety) and consider useful outcomes. This is not about removing the situation; rather, you are assessing your response to the situation. Ask yourself whether there is a real threat of harm, and then determine whether the physical and emotional response is appropriate for the situation.

Gather: Once the bodily sensations have been identified and the situation assessed, gather your thoughts before taking any actions. After you have a clear mindset, consider if any action is necessary or helpful. Try to avoid using angry tones, isolation, repetitious behaviors, or any other unhealthy actions.

Handle: Finally, handle the outcome of the scenario, including the feelings, thoughts and reactions from oneself (and others), which reflects and nurtures emotional intelligence. The way a situation is perceived tends to determine the way in which the situation is handled. This final step is challenging and takes intentional practice. In the moment, remember to breathe before reacting so that the anxiety level declines.

Remember – this may not go as planned or expected the first few times and could make you feel more anxious. (You will not actually be more anxious, but it may feel that way.)  Keep working at it until the anxiety settles and is managed in a healthier way.  Although these steps are not intended to cure anxiety, they do calm anxiety so as to think clearly and cope well. Keep SIGH-ing.

“Worry” and “anxiety” are typically used interchangeably but have different psychological states.  Both terms demonstrate a sense of concern or need to be prepared in the event of a troublesome outcome and both are created by the imagination.  Worry is the thought process about a particular or small number of instances and still has the feeling of being within your control. Anxiety is persistent and excessive thoughts of undesirable outcomes or perceived threats of harm of varying situations with the feeling of being beyond your control and interferes with daily life.

*SIGH is a technique, I devloped and use in my practice to help my clients manage anxiety in a healthy manner

L3 Group, LLC
Dr. L. Annette Drain-Alagbala, PhD, LPC, NCC
N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
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