How to reduce anxiety or stress

One of the reasons our anxiety or stress can often spiral out of control is because we confuse the probability of something happening with the possibility of something happening. 


Probability vs. possibility

Say for instance I am worried that I might get a terminal illness, I might assume that it is a possibility and therefore spend hours a day worrying about it. Because I worry excessively about it, I might start noticing the smallest changes in my body like aches and pains or a change in blood pressure etc. 

This can make me more anxious which in turn, causes my blood pressure to change or for me to get aches and pains due to the increased stress. 

If we take a moment to pause and assess the situation, we might find the following helpful: Possibility is not probability. 

Yes it is possible for anyone to get diagnosed with a terminal illness, but what is the probability? I need to write as many reasons as I can find on paper for me to keep as evidence and to look at when I feel that I am going down that spiral which leaves me feeling out of control. 


1. No one in my family has ever been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

2. A friend of mine was diagnosed with a serious illness, but after treatment is now in remission and living a happy life.

3. I am young and I’m rarely ill.

4. I follow a healthy lifestyle.

5. I am probably worried more because I keep reading about terminal illness which affects my realistic expectations. If I watched a horror movie every night I would probably be afraid to go to bed. 

6. I am very self-aware and can usually pick up small changes in my body. Some of it might be due to ageing and some might be due to lifestyle like burning more calories than I consumed in a day. No wonder I’m so tired and losing weight!

If you kept a list like this relevant to your specific worries, you might see how the probability of me being diagnosed with a terminal illness is actually not that high.

If you still feel that your worry spirals, speak to a friend, a family member or a therapist. They can help you to gain a deeper understanding of where the real concern is coming from and help you find techniques to combat your anxiety. 

It is also important to remember that when we are going through times of uncertainty, our sleep can be affected which in return can have a negative effect on our health. 

It would be good to minimise negative stimuli like constantly reading the news and replacing at least some of the time spent on these activities, on more positive activities like keeping a gratitude journal or writing Christmas cards for loved ones. 

I often take long breaks from social media and try to go to bed as early as possible with my mobile phone in a different room. Find something that you like or have an interest in. Try and stay connected to yourself as much as being connected to the ones you love.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, W6 8AF
Written by Sonica Mushi, MBACP (Reg), BA (Psych) L4(DIP)
London, W6 8AF

I am an integrative counsellor trained in Psychodynamic counselling, CBT, Schema Therapy, (EFT) based on attachment and a person-centred approach. I offer online, phone and face-to-face sessions for individuals and couples.

I'm based in the Hammersmith and Fulham area and work with my clients on a plan that is designed around their needs.

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