Anxiety - 3 things we need to know
So who needs anxiety? The answer might surprise you. We all do. Anxiety is the way that we keep ourselves safe, a mechanism that signals danger. Yet anxiety is meant to help us not get in our way. We can recognise times that anxiety has made us careful with our actions: at the start of an exam; when walking in a dark street or carrying out a task for the first time. In all of these situations, our anxiety is preparing us to avoid the pitfalls and keep ourselves safe or perform well.
The problem with anxiety is when it gets out of control one anxious episode can flow into another. Or our anxiety system is easily triggered by the slightest threat. If you really struggle with anxiety it can be very isolating not to be able to control these difficult feelings. Having a set of tools that effectively control the struggle that is going on inside can make a real difference.
Many people struggle with anxiety throughout their lives, others find that their anxiety flares in response to events in their lives and using the tools at those times helps. So what are these tools what can we do:
Learn to challenge your thoughts
Anxiety tends to paint the worst possible picture. It is driven by our emotions. We need to pause and look at the facts. Try to encapsulate your fear in a sentence. Now score your feelings on a scale of 1 to 10. What are the facts that support your thought? What are the facts that don’t support your thought? Is there a way to write your thought that better supports the facts? Now re-score your feelings. You should have a lower score.
Notice you are living in the future
Anxiety by its nature, makes us predict what will happen three steps ahead. Try to ground yourself more in the present. One effective way of doing this is to notice five things that you can see, four things that you can hear, three tastes that you remember, too strong smells you know of, and one good thing about yourself. This should pull you back into the present moment.
Be patient and kind to yourself
Anxiety can make as very self-critical. We can become annoyed with our self. It is important that you recognise this is a biological response to a perceived threat. You are using these tools to take what control you can. Being angry and self-critical is only likely to make you more stressed and more anxious and create a vicious circle. Much better to acknowledge the small steps and the progress that you are making in challenging your anxiety.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice, he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.