The source of anxiety lies in the future. If you can keep the future out of mind, you can forget your worries.
— Larina Kase
Are You Feeling Anxious?
Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling you have about uncontrollable and unavoidable circumstances. It’s an uneasiness you have about a future filled with possible threats and negative experiences. It can also be viewed as a form of worry, insecurity and overwhelm. In a way, anxiety is a mechanism you use to cope with stress, and potential threats. In other ways, anxiety can be seen as a low-grade fear. You’re not quite afraid, however you feel rather vulnerable, and this prevents you from moving forward.
The Symptoms of Anxiety
The signs of anxiety are quite evident — manifesting in both physical and emotional ways. For instance, when you’re feeling anxious you might experience the following physical symptoms:
- Heart palpitations
On an emotional level, you might experience the following symptoms:
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling apprehensive
- Feeling pessimistic about the future
- Experiencing uncontrollable negative thoughts
- Experiencing trouble concentrating
- Persistent irrational fears and worries
It’s easy to see how overwhelming anxiety can become if you happen to experience a multitude of these symptoms at one time. It can actually be quite an unpleasant experience that makes you feel helpless and incredibly vulnerable.
Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety can manifest in your life in a multitude of ways. There isn’t just one cause. However, there are often valid reasons why you’re feeling anxious.
For starters, you might be feeling anxious because you have a set of irrational thoughts and/or beliefs that are preventing you from seeing things in a more positive and empowering way. For instance, you might have irrational beliefs linked to a sense of dependency, vulnerability, disapproval, defectiveness, failure or alienation. These beliefs cloud your vision, and prevent you from seeing things clearly. As a result you see what your beliefs tell you is there, even if there is no physical or rational evidence to validate your point of view. Whatever you see is true for you, whether it’s reality or just a figment of your imagination.
Your irrational beliefs can also be linked to feeling somewhat undeserving, feeling rejected, inadequate and/or feeling ashamed. There are so many possibilities here, that it’s easy to get lost in trying to figure out the actual reasons for your anxiety. To keep things simple and practical, let’s not worry about all this stuff. You don’t need to figure all this stuff out in order to control your anxiety.
Anxiety however isn’t always primarily a result of a set of irrational beliefs or thoughts. It can also result from a lack of physical activity or simply a lack of dietary balance. These two factors by themselves won’t make you feel anxious, however they do have a tendency to influence your emotional state and make you more vulnerable to anxiety attacks.
For instance, you might lack some familiarity with a new environment or social situation. Under normal conditions it might not phase you too much. However, because you don’t look after yourself physically and fail to eat a balanced diet, this may cause you to feel somewhat more anxious than you normally would under those conditions. Your physical body is weak, and therefore this affects your emotional state of mind.
Consequences of Anxiety
Experiencing anxiety for an extended period of time can often lead to a loss of motivation and confidence. The more confidence you lose the more you doubt yourself and your own abilities, and the more indecisive you become. Your indecision will likely lead to procrastination, which will cause you to doubt yourself even more, resulting in higher levels of pessimism about an uncertain future. This can essentially lead to the fear of failure. And as a result of this fear, you tend to avoid doing things you would normally do. This leads to periods of isolation, which causes you to feel lonely, and can eventually lead to feeling somewhat alienated. And in the end, all this could result in a deep state of depression.
As you can see, anxiety is the underlying emotion that sits below the surface of many other emotions. If left uncontrolled and mismanaged, it can lead you down a deep dark emotional path that will be very difficult to overcome. Therefore the more you learn about how to control and manage your anxiety, the more power you will have over other emotions.
Types of Anxiety
There are many different forms of anxiety that people could potentially experience. For instance phobias and panic attacks are two forms of anxiety. There’s also separation anxiety, performance anxiety and choice anxiety. However, for the purpose of this discussion let’s look at the two most common forms of anxiety that many people experience. The first is social anxiety, and the second is generalized anxiety. Both forms of anxiety can be controlled and managed successfully.
Social anxiety is a common social phobia that millions of people experience worldwide. When you experience this form of anxiety you will tend to avoid social settings and interactions. Social anxiety often manifests in the fear of judgment, embarrassment, rejection and humiliation.
Generalized anxiety is a common anxiety disorder that affects many people worldwide. This form of anxiety often results in excessive feelings of overwhelm or simply a lack of control resulting from exaggerated worry and tension about things such as money, health, family and work.
Controlling Anxiety Process
There is a four step process you can use that will help you to take control of your anxiety attacks. There’s absolutely nothing complicated about this process. However, don’t let that fool you. Your emotions aren’t complex, they only seem that way when you lose control or mismanage them. And gaining back control over your emotions is easy if you know what to do and how to apply yourself to consciously make the necessary changes.
The first step you will need to take to gain control of your anxiety is to become comfortable observing your emotional responses.
Allow yourself to feel the anxiety freely and willingly. Don’t fight the feeling. Let yourself experience this anxiety in the moment without judgment. Take these moments to observe your self-talk, mood, thoughts, and the irrational beliefs that might be driving your decisions and behavior. Ask yourself:
What am I feeling right now?
What is my mood like?
What am I thinking about?
How am I thinking about things?
How am I talking to myself about this situation?
What questions am I asking?
What do I believe about this situation that is causing me to feel this way?
If you are having difficulty observing yourself in this way, then try mentally separating yourself from your body, and then looking-in at your emotions from this external perspective without judgment. Just observe and experience how this feeling of anxiety is manifesting in your life at this very moment.
Having gained some clarity about your internal state of mind, now take time to identify what specifically has triggered your feelings of anxiety. Ask yourself:
What has triggered these feelings of anxiety within me?
Was it another person?
Was it something in my external environment?
Was it simply my perspective, expectations or interpretation of the situation?
The more clarity you have about what specifically has triggered your anxiety, the more information you will have moving forward that will help you to resolve these feelings in a positive way.
Finally, look for patterns. Look for how your anxiety is manifesting at this very moment. In fact, take all your responses to the previous questions and figure out how you are using your body and mind to experience this feeling of anxiety. Ask yourself:
How am I currently experiencing anxiety?
Is it something I’m doing or saying?
What patterns are evident here?
Your second step is to begin gaining some form of control over your emotions and the situation you are dealing with. To do this, look first to your strengths and then to the potential resources you have at your disposal. Ask yourself:
What are my strongest qualities?
How could they assist me here?
What resources do I have at my disposal?
How could these resources be of value?
While experiencing anxiety, you will often be in a state of vulnerability where you will feel powerless to take charge of your circumstances. For this very reason it’s absolutely paramount that you tap into your strengths and have a think about the positive qualities that could help you get through this personal challenge successfully. If you find this difficult to do, then reflect back on your past and think about the qualities and strengths that have served you before to help you overcome emotional setbacks. This is where you will find your strength.
Your resources are another source of strength. They could include tools, knowledge, beliefs, support systems and other things that you could use to help find a better way moving forward. However, don’t worry if you don’t have the necessary resources, because the next step will show you how to become more resourceful.
It’s now time to take charge of the situation, and it doesn’t even matter what resources or strengths you identified during the previous step. Your objective here is to become more resourceful and find the strength within to take control of your anxiety.
To begin with, take charge of your self-talk and your thought process. When you’re anxious your thoughts are probably running rampant focusing on all the things you can’t control and all the negative consequences that may result. This isn’t an effective way to think about the situation, and it will only makes you feel absolutely miserable.
Take charge of these thoughts by focusing on opportunities and potential solutions for your anxiety. In fact, see your anxiety and the situation you are working through as a problem. Even better, see it as a challenge and look for potential solutions. Ask yourself:
What’s the problem that I am currently experiencing?
What can I do about this situation?
What can I do to alleviate my feelings about this situation?
What opportunities might exist that could transform how I’m thinking about this?
Where can I find the answers I am looking for?
If you are finding it difficult to work through these questions, then it’s very possible that you have a set of irrational beliefs that are holding you back. In such instances you must challenge these irrational beliefs. Ask yourself:
What do I believe about this situation?
What do I believe about myself in this situation?
What do I believe will happen?
How does all this make me feel?
What assumptions am I making about this situation?
Do these feelings and/or beliefs make any logical sense?
How are they flawed?
You might also find it helpful to gain someone else’s opinion about the situation. In fact, ask them to challenge all your assumptions and beliefs about the situation and about how you feel about the situation. Having someone poke holes in your assumptions can be the perfect catalyst that will help you to shift your perspective about your circumstances. In fact, take time to consciously reframe your experience in a different way. Actually take the time to look for alternate perspectives of the situation that will potentially help empower you moving forward. Ask yourself:
What’s another way to look at this situation?
What if I’m not actually feeling anxious, but rather feeling excited about this situation?
In the greater scheme of things, do I really have anything to be anxious about?
Will all this really matter in ten year time? If not, then is there any point in feeling anxious about it in the moment?
The moment you begin thinking about things in a different way, is the moment you will begin transforming how you feel about the situation. Maybe it is excitement you’re feeling and not anxiety. And if you’re not feeling excitement, then maybe you should shift how you think about things in order to create the feeling of excitement within.
When you’re excited you come from a state of empowerment. When you’re anxious you come from a state of vulnerability. One of these emotions will help you move forward, while the other will just make you feel miserable and powerless.
The final step of this process is more of a long-term strategy you can use to help alleviate the impact of your anxiety attacks.
In order to strengthen yourself emotionally and mentally, it’s important that you expose yourself to circumstances that trigger anxiety gradually over time in small doses. These small doses of anxiety are much like a vaccination. When you get vaccinated a small dose of the germ is injected into your body. This is a controllable amount that your body can deal with and fight-off successfully. And as a result of this experience, your body is now better prepared to handle exposure to this germ in the physical world.
To use another analogy, anxiety is like a muscle. The more you work it out, the stronger it will get. What makes you anxious now will not make you anxious in the future if you expose yourself to these situations or circumstances in small doses over time. Your anxiety muscle gets stronger and this helps you handle these moments much more effectively.
If however you are finding this entire process rather overwhelming, then begin fighting your anxiety within your imagination. Work through the things that make you anxious in your imagination first, then only once you feel comfortable with this process should you proceed and begin exposing yourself to your anxieties in the physical world. And as always, remember to do this in small doses.
Using small doses of exposure over time, is probably the best method for gaining control over your anxiety. Yes of course you can try hypnosis and other similar forms of therapy. However, the steps outlined within this process are completely in your hands. You have full control and you don’t need a professional therapist to help you get through this. It will of course take time and will require a little courage on your part. However, with persistent effort, you will make progress, and with progress will come the confidence you need to manage this emotion successfully.
Anxiety Elimination Tips
There are certain things you can do on a daily basis that will help you eliminate, or at the very least control your anxiety attacks. Here are some suggestions:
Get Adequate Rest
Getting adequate rest and sleep is absolutely paramount. You will always be more susceptible to overreact emotionally to situations when you’re feeling tired and fatigued. The more energy you have, the more clarity you have, and the better decisions you will tend to make throughout the day.
Set Realistic Expectations
It’s important that you don’t overburden yourself with unrealistic expectations. Often anxiety can arise because you are simply aiming too high and expecting too much of yourself and your abilities.
If you’re experiencing high levels of anxiety, then consider toning down your expectations. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself that you HAVE TO get things done. You don’t have to do anything. You can choose to do this, or you can choose to do something else. The choice is yours to make. Putting unnecessary pressure on yourself will only cause you more stress and will result in lower levels of productivity.
Simplify Your Life
Anxiety can often result from having too much on your mind. This is often the case when you’re over-complicating things. Over-complicating things can quickly overwhelm you and this can consequently lead to anxiety.
Instead of complicating things, think about how you could potentially simplify your life, your schedule, your routine, and the activities you partake in on a daily basis. Simplification will bring more peace and serenity to your life, and it will help you eliminate those things that often make you feel a little anxious.
Avoid addictions such as caffeine, alcohol and sugars. Yes, of course these are things that can temporarily boost your levels of energy or help you forget about your problems. However, they provide you with no long-term solutions. And without these solutions you will continue to go through the same repetitive cycle that puts your emotions into a tailspin.
When feeling anxious, it’s often helpful to express yourself in some way. You might choose to express yourself by talking about your feelings, concerns and problems with another person. Or you might decide to just get your thoughts down on paper in a journal or in pictures. It doesn’t really matter how you express yourself, as long as you do it in a helpful and productive manner.
The simple act of expressing yourself could provide you with the insights and perspectives you need to move forward beyond your anxieties.
Accept You Can’t Control Everything
At times you might be feeling anxious about things that you have very little control over. This is concerning for you, which is why you are feeling anxious about the situation.
In order to eliminate anxiety, you must come to accept the fact that you won’t always be able to control the outcome. Sometimes you’ll just have to accept that things are out of your control, and that you will need to adapt to whatever changes come your way. Uncertainly can be beneficial if approached in the right manner, however you have to be open to the possibilities.
Accept Failure and Mistakes
Are you anxious because you’re afraid of failing or making mistakes? Failure is a part of life, a part of change, and a necessary component of growth. Failure will help you to learn the lessons you must master to get to the next stage along your journey. Don’t resist failure by becoming anxious about it. Instead embrace failure as a vital part of life that you must go through in order to take the next step along your journey.
In the same way as failure, mistakes are also important. When you make a mistake you learn valuable lessons that can help you to do things differently, and even better the next time around. Without mistakes there is no real growth. Mistakes will force you to reflect upon what you’re doing, upon the decisions you’re making, and help you figure out a better way moving forward. For this very reason, there is no need to be anxious about the possibility of making mistakes. Like failure, mistakes are an important part of life that you can’t avoid.
It’s okay to feel a little anxious about things that you are uncertain about. This is natural. However, don’t allow this anxiety to prevent you from taking the necessary risks you need to make to overcome your problems or attain your goals.
When it comes to risk-taking, a little anxiety and concern is good, because it will keep you wary of the downside of each risk. However, if anxiety is getting overwhelming and actually preventing you from seeing things in an emotionally unbiased and detached manner, then you’re simply not seeing the full picture — you’re not seeing reality as it actually is. This is likely to hurt you and prevent you from obtaining your desired outcomes.
Focus on the Present Moment
The moment you’re feeling anxious, realize that you are focusing on an uncertain future. This creates doubt in your mind, which can lead to fear and inaction. By focusing on the future you’re already creating all these worst-case scenarios in your mind, and this is causing you to feel rather anxious. STOP! Don’t do this to yourself. Instead, focus on the present moment. Just be mindful of the present moment by focusing on what’s going on around you right now. If that doesn’t work, then try focusing on your breathing.
Once you’re there, in the present moment, that is when you can try to figure things. It is in the present moment where you will lay down a better path moving forward without anxiety influencing your choices and decisions. However, to get there, you must focus on what’s working and how you can potentially use this to your advantage in that moment to help you move forward.
Alternatively, to distract your mind from the future, just keep yourself busy with something in the present moment. The act of “keeping busy” will help you to stay focused on the present while also distracting yourself from an uncertain future. This is of course only a band-aid solution. However, if what you’re feeling anxious about is out of your control anyways, then staying busy in the present moment instead of obsessing about the future could be exactly what you need to help you control your anxiety levels.
Smile More Often
When you’re feeling anxious, you’re probably not smiling. And when you’re smiling, you’re probably never feeling anxious.
Smiling will help you relax a little. Maybe it might even help you find something humorous about the situation that you previously hadn’t noticed. Or maybe it might just remind you that you’re taking life too seriously. Maybe what you’re anxious about isn’t worth the emotional energy and effort. Just maybe a more light-hearted approach is required moving forward.
Take a Time-Out
When you’re feeling anxious, it’s often helpful to distract yourself in some way. The distraction will help you to refocus on what’s most important. Just maybe you’re focusing-on and feeling anxious about all the wrong things. These things might not be important at all when you take into account the bigger picture, however you might need to take a time-out to remind yourself of this fact.
You can take a time-out in the following ways:
- Volunteer your time to help other people.
- Partake in exercise, sports, dance classes, yoga, or any other group activity.
- Get a massage to help you relax and replenish your energy.
- Take time to visualize or meditate.
- Go for a relaxing walk, or simply lie down in the warm and calming rays of the sun.
- Do some stretching.
- Read a book that inspires and challenges you.
- Listen to relaxing music.
- Just take time to breathe deeply.
- Take a hot bath or shower.
There are many more possibilities here. You need to find what works best for you. The most important thing is that this activity helps you to separate yourself from the things you are feeling anxious about for a set period of time. Hopefully within these moments you will find the clarity you need to get a better understanding of your circumstances, and maybe even figure out a better path moving forward.
Even during moments of uncertainty when your anxiety levels are at their highest, there are probably things you can still be grateful for.
Gratitude will remind you of all the good things in your life. It will remind you of all the things that you love — that make you happy. Who knows, it might even remind you that feeling anxious about some things is just not worth your time and effort.
Gratitude is also beneficial in other ways. For instance, it will immediately make you smile and make you feel more optimistic about your life. Who knows, it could even help put your circumstances into their proper perspective?
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
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Gain More Knowledge…
- 3 Ways to Deal with In-the-Moment Anxiety @ Psychology Today
- 5 Self-Help Tips to Beat Anxiety @ The Daily Mind
- 7 Common Habits that Secretly Make You Anxious @ Pick the Brain
- Crushing Anxiety: From Xanax to Zen @ A Daring Adventure
- Feeling Anxious? Five Scientifically Proven Relaxation Techniques @ PsyBlog
- How to be Anxiety Free: Top 10 Techniques @ Great Self-Confidence
- How to Deal with Anxiety @ Mr. Self Development
- How to Decode Your Anxiety and Worry — And Diminish Both @ World of Psychology
- How to Eliminate Life’s Anxieties and Prepare Yourself for Anything @ Mazzastick
- How to Manage the Anxiety that Comes with Change @ Psychology Today
- How to Stop Coping with Anxiety and Start Living @ World of Psychology