Who, me? Anxious?
Anxiety in small doses can be healthy. It warns a person when there’s danger. It pushes them forward, bring about change and improvement in their life. But anxiety stops becomes pathological when it creates an inability to live life, when it leaves the individual paralyzed with worry or fear.
Dealing with bad anxiety isn’t easy, but here are some tips that might help. There’s information at the end of the article about puttin these methods into practice.
Seven ways to deal with problems
1-Confront what ails you: problem-solve.
What’s causing the stress? Consider processing stressors on paper. Evaluate each stressor individually.
How do you do that?
First, define the issue. A problem can include things like mourning the passing of the years, dealing with a difficult friend, suffering from panic attacks, or struggling with weight gain.
For example, here’s a common issue: I need to lose weight.
Next, what can you do about the issue? Brainstorm possible interventions. How’ve you dealt with past troubles? How have others dealt with that same stressor? Do some research. Solutions range from radical acceptance to making major life changes.
Brainstorm solutions: eat less, Atkins diet, cut out sweets and bread, go for a walk everyday, join a fitness class, drink more water to feel full, ask doctor for an appetite suppressant, take up dancing…
Once you’ve created a list of options, choose the one that makes the most sense and do it. Make it happen. You overcome fear and worry by taking control. That means taking action.
My plan: Atkins diet, stretch every morning, go hiking every day for at least 30 minutes.
2-Forget the worst-case scenario.
Think of life as a spectrum: on one end you’ve got the worse-case outcome. That’s where most anxious people lean when they consider their future. But if you’re going to invest energy into the worst outcome, you should invest that same energy into best-case scenario. You can’t have one without the other.
Imagine you’re scared of dying in a plane crash. That’s the worst case scenario. What’s the best case outcome? You receive a standing ovation when you step off the plane, then learn the airline has gifted you two free flights? Typically the best and worst case scenarios carry the same weight. They’re extremely unlikely. The odds of dying in a plane crash are comparable to being hit by lightning seven times. That is, about one in 11 million. You can rest your nerves. You might be a afraid of dying in a plane crash, but it’s very unlikely to happen. Unfortunately the standing ovation and unexpected flight tickets are also unlikely.
The answer lies in the middle, between the two. What’s the most likely outcome?
The plan bucks a bit and leaves you dizzy, but there’s no crash. Nor are there a standing ovation or complimentary flight tickets. But you reach your destination without complications.
3-Prepare ahead of time.
Preparation for upcoming stressors turns potential meltdown into nervousness. When possible, prepare in advance for upcoming projects. Anticipate complicated situations. Consider the following scenarios. For each one, how could you prepare ahead of time?
You have to give a presentation at work, and it’s got you tied up in frantic knots. What would you do?
Practice the presentation ahead of time. Repeat it mentally, say it out loud, and come up with answers to potential questions. Imagine the presentation is a great success. Do this over and over.
School is starting soon. You’re worried about having panic attacks. What do you do?
Visit your classroom ahead of time, or mentally visit the room: imagine a positive place and supportive peers and teacher. Practice relaxation techniques.
You’re going to an emotion-packed, potentially stressful family reunion in a few days. What can you do to get ready?
Take out a paper and pen, jot down all the bad situations that could arise, and create a plan for each one. Can will deal with your aunt’s caustic remarks? Which family members are safe territory? Who is the most supportive? Would bringing a friend be helpful? Plan an early getaway. Brain-storm ideas and plan ahead of time.
Other ways to prepare for upcoming stress: identifying an escape, even if it’s temporary, like the bathroom; listening to music, or keeping a list of supportive people to call.
4-Prevent stress when possible.
Establish healthy boundaries. Make good choices. Minimize toxic relationship. Limit the extent of “extra work” you take on at the office. Learn how to say no. Avoid things that worsen anxiety, like sweets, cigarettes, caffeine, drugs, and alcohol.
5-Build up resilience, joy, and self-esteem.
Pursue activities that jumpstart peace & enjoyment and augment self-esteem. That includes tai chi classes, yoga, relaxation, regular exercise, and meditation/mindfulness practice. Carve out time for yourself and guard it dearly. Find passion in hobbies and fun activities and spend time with loved ones. Bolster self-esteem by keeping a to-do list and staying on top of important chores. Choose who you spend your time with and what you do with your day carefully, as these have a profound effect on your well-being.
One of the quickest ways to combat stress and anxiety is to divert your attention. This isn’t easy, but the trick is to ACT, not THINK. Here are some good distractions:
- holding your hands under running water
- watching TV
- journaling about something other than stress
- reading something funny or soothing
- listening to uplifting music
- taking a warm bath
- going for a walk
- Playing with a pet
For a longer list of ideas, check out 150+ fun things to do
7-Reach out for support.
We need people. We need support. That can meet family, friends, school, work, neighbors, church, individual or group therapy, online communities, and support groups. Alternatively, join a local group or club (like a book or hikers’ club). Volunteer. Return to school. Time with others grants context, alternative perspectives, distraction, growth, and much more.
Now it’s time for trial and error.
We’ve gone over multiple ways to deal with problems. Yep, you guessed it: the next step is to experiment. Try each method on for size. You might need to don the suit many times before it becomes effective, so don’t ditch a method the first time around. What doesn’t work today might work tomorrow. Once you have a list of effective strategies, keep it handy. Next time you find yourself overwhelmed with worry, pull it out and practice.
Here’s an example of a trial and error list:
Note “preparing in advance” didn’t help the first time around, but the second attempt was successful. The next step on our list is Tai Chi and bowling!
Nothing helping? Contact a professional.
If anxiety doesn’t back off, reach out to a mental health provider. There are other ways to overcome anxiety, ranging from exposure therapy, breathing exercises, and rewriting problem thoughts to Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and dialectical behavioral therapy. Also talk to your primary care doctor or psychiatrist about medication options.
Anxiety doesn’t have to be debilitating. Keep these tips in mind and take control.