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How the alphabet helps my anxiety

Liz Sheils

Liz, who lives with MS, shares a top tip that helps her anxiety.

Some days my anxiety feels unbearable. My pulse is racing. My thoughts are moving as quickly. I feel like I can’t breathe and I don’t know what to do with myself.

While I do enjoy mindful breathing and use it often, I find it unhelpful to focus in on my breath when I feel extreme anxiety. I use a technique I have called ‘Anxious Alphabet’! Let me explain…

Acorn, Biscuit, Crayon, Diver…

Last year I was in a supermarket (remember those?) and I started to feel my world crumbling. My anxiety was getting worse and I wanted to hide. There was no where to go and so I began a game of Anxious Alphabet.

There are different ways to play but the simple technique is to list things beginning with each letter of the alphabet, working your way through it.

Here are some examples

  • Categories: sometimes I choose a category like food and begin ‘apricot, banana, cucumber, doughnut, egg’. The category can be whatever you want like: countries, sport, hobbies, celebrities, rude words.
  • Random: as the name suggests this game just involves listing anything that starts with each letter. It can be quite entertaining to see the unusual words that your mind comes up with! Autumn, beach, coin, dictionary and so on.
  • Descriptive alphabet: for this one I try to visualise each letter and describe what it looks like, for example, A is amber colour, B is bouncy, C is made up of croutons...

A tip top tip: If you get to a letter and can’t think of anything, allow yourself to skip the letter or go for something random. If I get to X and can’t think of anything I always go for xylophone regardless of whether I am naming vegetables or describing the alphabet.

As I work my way through the alphabet I find the distraction helps my anxiety reduce. I am busy trying to think of a vegetable beginning with H and am not focusing on my racing heart or other anxiety related symptoms.

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