Anxiety - a practical route to help
Living with anxiety is like having a voice that follows you. It knows you and your insecurities intimately and uses them against you. It gets to the point quickly and it’s the loudest voice you’ll ever hear, and alone you must listen.
This description of anxiety shows how anxiety steals our joy of the present through our insecurity of ourselves and of the future. This anxiety can prove the foundation stone of our low self-esteem; ultimately we believe that there is something wrong with us and that we should be able to ‘pull ourselves together’.
Often anxiety skews reality, so an innocent remark like “I notice you misspelled that word in your report” by your boss will start a negative train of thought that starts with them thinking you incompetent, whistles down the line with you being fired, ending up with you living homeless living under the railway arches. Perhaps extreme, but it illustrates how our anxiety will go for the worst option ignoring better and alternative outcomes, no matter how much more likely they are. By challenging our thoughts, perhaps we can be more realistic about our future destination. Ask yourself, what are the facts here? Remembering that telepathy and my sense that… are not facts. Having thought about the facts is there a different way to see the situation.
Often, there is a big event happening in our lives and we have concerns about it. However, we can notice that our anxiety can become all consuming. Sure, you can tell yourself to stop worrying, and that might work, but the worries keep coming back often stronger. You can counter this, by creating a time when you can think about worrying thoughts. You might choose after dinner for an hour. If a thought comes up at another time, write it down and consider it at the appropriate time. It gets us out of the habit of dwelling on an endless loop and helps us practice suppressing them for a short time till a more appropriate moment.
Often, you will find there are things that you control. Noticing the cause of your anxiety and asking if you can change that can help. If I decide to run a charity race, I might be anxious if I can finish the course, what the weather will be like on the day... yet I can only change the first of these (through practice and training). The weather will do as it pleases, I can choose to be anxious about being rained on or I can accept that we cannot be certain, regardless of how anxious we are or what we do we will not change the outcome. Perhaps then we can choose to be less anxious (keep an eye on the weather) and live with the uncertainty because we cannot have the surety our anxiety demands.
Working to control your thoughts and feelings can help you to bring your anxiety under your control. It is possible to do that through hard work and practice. Often though a course, counselling or the support of a group will make the process easier, so if you are finding your anxiety is troubling you, try to make a difference today.
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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.