Coping with Anxiety
By: Beth McHugh 2006
Is anxiety getting the better of you? Is it controlling the way you live your life? Has your quality of life diminished because of chronic low-grade anxiety or are you experiencing acute anxiety attacks in addition to a daily dose of anxiety?
Anxiety is an extremely unpleasant sensation which most people are familiar with. Sometimes anxiety serves us in a positive way to motivate us to do things, such as get studying for that exam next week, or make an appointment with the doctor to talk about a health problem that is bothering you.
But sometimes anxiety can take on a life of its own to the point where a sufferer can become anxious simply about being anxious. At this point, life can turn into a downward spiral of worry, sleepless nights, agitation, and even panic. Here are some positive steps you can take to identify and alleviate anxiety and start taking back some control in your life:
- Don’t run away from your anxiety.
Anxiety is there for a reason, so constantly trying to avoid the anxious feelings by trying to lose yourself in a frenetic round of activities such as taking on extra classes, an extra workload, or an extra round of social events every week only serves to keep the anxiety going for longer, even if you do experience temporary relief through increased activities. Take the time to admit to feelings of anxiety. Remember that the first step in solving any problem is to admit you actually have a problem.
- Try to pinpoint exactly what it is that you are anxious
In many situations, the cause of the anxiety will be obvious. However, this is not always the case. It is not uncommon for a person to feel an ongoing sense of uneasiness and nervousness, yet not understand why. This may be because there are many issues that have accumulated over a period of time, and no one issue stands out to the sufferer as being the root cause of the problem. Alternatively, the problem that is causing the anxiety may be consciously denied by the sufferer, so that they are genuinely unaware of the true reason for their discomfort. An example of the latter case would be where a mother did not ever wish to have a child but finds herself with a six-month-old baby. The thought that she does not want the baby is so repugnant to her that she effectively represses this “unacceptable” thought, and does not consciously think of it. Yet the truth finds its way out through a feeling that “something is wrong” and when no source can be found, the feeling gradually turns into conscious feelings of anxiety.
- Become aware of the symptoms of stress that are particular
Stress symptoms come in many forms: racing heart, knot in the stomach, feelings of nausea, headaches, feelings of panic, and feelings of unreality to name a few. Recognize what your particular set of symptoms feel like and take steps to act on them. Let your body talk to you: that is what the anxious feelings are all about. Your body is trying to communicate to you that you are in mental pain. Instead of ignoring them, listen to them as you would listen to feelings of physical pain. Discover what they are trying to tell you.
- Give yourself permission to feel anxious about the issue
that is concerning you.
We often give ourselves a hard time over the way we are feeling, and in doing so, we make our anxiety worse by minimizing or even dismissing the reason that we are feeling anxious. We believe other people would “deal with it better” or that the issue simply isn’t serious enough to be worried about. But our bodies do not lie. If we feel anxious, we feel anxious, and therefore that is a warning that we need to attend to the issue that is distressing us. It’s okay to feel anxious, even if we do not want to be anxious. By giving yourself permission to feel anxious, our anxiety levels will actually be reduced.
- Listen to your self-talk.
Is it positive or negative? For people suffering from anxiety, it is most likely to be negative. And yet, this is the very time that we need to fill our minds with positive talk. Thinking negatively can become a very bad habit. But it is only a habit, and habits can be broken. Once you become aware of the nature and frequency of your negative thoughts, you can then take action to counteract them with positive thoughts. Positive thoughts can help you win the war against anxiety and stress.
- Pay attention to the talk of others.
Do the people who spend most of your time with speak in a positive way, or are they constantly bringing your mood down with talk of depressing topics and general whining? The environment around you can significantly impact on your mood so it is important to be aware of just how beneficial or otherwise your nearest and dearest are to your mental health. If you constantly associate with people who enjoy moaning and using negative talk, your health is bound to be affected. Make a concerted effort to associate with happy, cheerful people who are positive about their lives, themselves, and the world that they live in.
- Constantly pat yourself on the back for your achievements,
Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who would tell you how great you are on a regular basis? Well, you’ve got access to someone who can do just that. Yourself! Praise yourself regularly for things that you achieve throughout the day, no matter how small. Think it sounds ridiculous? Well, if you are telling yourself negative thoughts all day, you may as well change the tune and be positive instead. If you don’t think the negative ones are having a real effect on you, try three weeks of positive thinking. You’ll notice the difference.
Anxiety is an entity that begins with a problem and is fed and nourished by denial, refusal to accept the anxiety, being unaware of our daily environment, both internal and external, and not addressing the issue that is bothering us. By dealing with each and every issue surrounding anxiety we can help to minimize and overcome this distressing disorder.