Proven tips to beat anxiety
Although anxiety can seem inconvenient and uncomfortable, the body function keeps us safe. It is a very simple system: a small part of our brain (the amygdala) responds to emotional triggers, acting as a catalyst to action. Unconsciously the amygdala will release hormones into the body getting it ready to respond to the threat by fleeing or fighting. Our heart rate increases, we breathe more rapidly, sugar is released for the muscles. Changes are made throughout the body.
This works well when there are periods of calm between stressful activity to allow the body to rest. However, when we are overwhelmed by tasks and anxious thoughts we get stuck with the system running all of the time. This is detrimental to our health. But we all live in the real world with many demands on our time so how do we cope yet avoid a vicious circle of continual anxiety; always scanning for the next threat?
This is perhaps the most important of all the practices; being able to take a step. It might take many forms, it might be spending time with friends, or it might be reading or relaxing. The practice is to focus on yourself and things which are important to you, not the things important to others. Often people use mindfulness. They can be an observer on their thought process, without doing anything with the thought, just noticing it in the moment.
Create a space for worries
Often our anxiety creates questions or worries. Questions that seem unanswerable or questions that go round in our head like a carousel. Often it will seem there are hundreds of these interlinked. It can become difficult to focus on anything else because you are consumed by your thoughts. One approach is to postpone your worry or make an appointment with yourself to worry. Thus: I am going to think about my relationship with my boss tonight at 6 pm. If the thought comes up at another time just gently remind yourself of the appointment. If it helps, write down the question. You will be surprised how often the questions you return to seem less important or you feel are no longer relevant.
Challenge anxious thoughts
Often our anxiety makes assumptions or leaps that are unreasonable when we think about a problem. It is important to learn to challenge our thoughts when they make us feel anxious.
What are the facts? What makes us think our boss hates us (remember telepathy and fortune telling are not facts). Are there any facts that suggest we could have this wrong? If we consider the facts is there a different view of the problem. By using a challenging approach we can change how we feel about a problem and less anxious about it.
It takes practice and work to overcome anxiety, but people do it every day. It may be a therapist or your GP can help you - if you think you need help ask for it.
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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.