How to deal with anxiety without losing control
Anxiety comes in many different forms; phobias, panic attacks, social and general anxiety. Indeed it is normal to feel some level of anxiety in new and challenging situations. Yet while everyone experiences that ‘normal’ anxiety for example before an exam, when does it trip over to become a problem that you cannot control?
For some people there is an overwhelming feeling of dread that something terrible will happen even when there is no danger present. They may even recognise rationally that the threat presented is small, but emotionally they feel overwhelmed and want to get out of there.
Anxiety is one of the most common issues in counselling today and while many can identify the cause of their anxiety, such as a life event, others struggle to be sure what is causing it. It can be very common to feel that you are losing control of your mind and you are going ‘mad’.
Fortunately, there are very practical steps that you can take to help deal with your anxiety. While it will always be part of a normal healthy life, you can once again feel that you are in control and that your anxiety is keeping you safe.
How do you do that? There are practical steps you can take.
Act on the evidence you have, not your uncertainty. So if you feel that you can’t go to a party because they will all hate you. Ask yourself what evidence do you have for that? (Remember that feelings and telepathy are not evidence). Then turn it round, what evidence is there that your statement is true? Now act on the evidence; is there a statement like “I feel self-conscious and nervous at parties but sometimes I enjoy talking to friends” that better fits the evidence. By challenging the thought you can do something different.
Learn to notice what you have control over and what you do not. If you are having a barbeque, you have control over the guest list, the food, the date and perhaps music etc. Yet no matter how much you wish for a sunny day you have no control over the weather. There is little point in being anxious about whether the sun shines; you have no control over that. Similarly, in other situations that make you anxious you will have control over parts and no control over other areass. Concentrate your effort on managing the parts that you can at least make a difference to.
Perhaps the hardest thing to do is to accept that life is uncertain. Those suffering from anxiety want certainty. Anxiety is a way of trying to predict and prepare you for those possibilities. Yet we only seem to prepare for the worst. Ask yourself “What if it all went horribly right” because in an uncertain world things go right as well as wrong. Focusing on the worst case scenario doesn’t immunise us from it. Try to have a balanced view that all possibilities may happen good and bad.
By noticing that you can change how you manage your anxiety. You can gain control over it and begin to get relief. Like all skills it takes some practice and may be easier of you have a friend or counsellor to help you.
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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.