Anxiety - You can beat it
Anxiety, a simple word, seven letters, is such a pervasive condition. Anxiety is in all of our lives and in threatening situations is useful. Yet the anxiety we are talking about here is unhelpful, unwanted and often disabling.
Anxiety affects every system in the body, some of the more common symptoms being: muscle tension, headaches, heart palpitations, upset stomach. Perhaps the hardest symptom of anxiety to deal with is the emotional or mental change that goes with it. There is a fear that grips you, often that you are going to die.
Everyone suffers from anxiety at some point in their lives. Anxiety has many triggers, but common to most of them is stress. Anxiety is not in itself a bad thing if there is a threat as it gets the body ready to protect itself or run (called fight or flight). So if you are walking home down a darkened street and feel you are being followed - that is anxiety working in a positive way to try to protect you. However, when anxiety is triggered when there is no real threat then there can be real problems.
Making an effective recovery
Many people each day, each month and each year feel better about their anxiety using the tips and techniques below. There is no magic bullet for fixing anxiety but we know these things work for most people. In most cases they are skills so you have to practise to get the best out of them. Don’t give up because it didn’t work first time. If you are finding it hard you might want to consider using a counsellor to help you get started.
Use the following tips to cope with your anxiety
Challenge unhelpful thoughts
When we feel anxious we have a tendency to think the worst possible outcome will happen. Yet we have very little evidence that this is the case. Try thinking thoughts like “What would it be like if everything went right” or challenging yourself to prove with facts that the worst possible outcome is what was going to happen. Remembering, of course, that feelings are not facts.
We all need to breathe, but when we become anxious we tend to breathe in a very shallow and rapid way. You can counter this anxiety symptom by breathing in deeply and taking the air right down into your abdomen, and then slowly breathe out pushing the stress with it.
Relaxation and self-care
Taking time to focus on yourself is important; perhaps you have a hobby you enjoy or friends you like to be with. The point is to do something which is important to you that recharge your batteries that put very little pressure on you. You could also learn a relaxation or meditation technique such as progressive muscle relaxation, sitting mediation or mindfulness.
Don’t avoid the problem
Trying to stop being anxious by avoiding the situation is unlikely to work in the long-term. It tends to grow the issue in your head and gradually you avoid it more and more just in case the situation that will make you anxious occurs. Called negative reinforcement you are making it harder to be able to beat your anxiety each time you let the anxiety take control and beat you back. While facing our fears is often easier said than done, if we look at our past experience, often our fear and anxiety has been much worse than the reality of the situation. Of course we have made mistakes but it is possible to recover from these.
There is no doubt that these tips can be used in isolation by you to manage your anxiety. However, you may find that you want to use a counsellor to tackle your anxiety till you begin to get some level of skill in the techniques and some outlet for discussion on how you are coping with 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.