What is Anxiety?
We can all feel anxious from time to time, from awaiting exam results to driving in bad weather and busy situations. Some people have a much quieter voice in their minds regarding their worries and they are able to ignore it, but others cannot. If anxiety is causing you stress, lack of sleep or if it is interfering with your daily life and functioning, then speaking to a friend or family member as they could help. Failing this, seeking medical help could be one of the other options for you.
Here I am addressing general anxiety disorder or GAD rather than more specific types such as social anxiety or panic disorder. These five simple tips are only small and it can take time to truly overcome nervousness. Although exercise is an additional option to helping you overcome mental health issues, these tips focus on the power of our minds. Hopefully these points will assist you and help you on your path to become more positive and free from an anxious way of thinking.
1. Stop Worrying
The route of nervousness stems from worrying too much. Worrying about everything from what people think to what you should wear, right through to questions such as have you forgotten your phone and did you leave the oven on. Apprehension in small doses is good for us as it shows we are conscientious, diligent and good at preparation, planning and in thinking things through. However, for the anxious individual, worrying can become a constant voice in one's head reminding them of all their fears and concerns. Stop for a moment and look upwards at the ceiling or sky depending on where you are. Take five deep breaths in and out and relax.
Excessive fretfulness will not solve anything and it is a pointless and unproductive exercise. To combat it you could start by making a list of the things you are concerned about at the moment. This could range from tasks you need to accomplish each day to even just your feelings. Now that these thoughts are out of your head and down on paper then theoretically you should feel calmer and it should be easier to sleep. You can feel secure in the knowledge that you have written them down. The very anxious individual would now fret about losing the piece of paper but put your list into your phone, your email or multiple places if you have to. The main thing is that these worries, concerns and fears are no longer in your head, you are free of them because they are down on paper.
Talking to family and friends is another great way to alleviate your fears and worries. This technique works again for a similar reason because you are unleashing the stresses and fears from the captivity of your mind and releasing them out into the open. In addition, the busier you are, the less time you will have to dwell on and over-think your worries. So why not take up a new hobby or pastime if you can and this will help to refocus your mind on to other things.
2. Don’t Jump to Conclusions
The anxious individual is likely to be thinking very quickly, having rapid thoughts and ideas. Therefore if something happens, their mind will play out all the possible resulting scenarios. This does not sound too bad, but it is after this that the anxious person will start jumping to conclusions in an act to reassure themselves. This is dangerous and should be avoided. You have to tell yourself that no one can predict the future and unless you have all the facts then the outcome is still an unknown variable. Often it is the worst case scenario that is thought of first and this is in part due to the frequent negative mind frame of someone who is anxious.
Step back from the situation and say ‘but what would a positive person think?’ and ‘what is the opposite of what I am thinking now?’ and this may help you step outside of a negative and pessimistic outlook into a more content and reflective positive one. When you are concerned about jumping to a conclusion and it is negative, firstly you need to start to recognize that it is negative and then write down the positive alternatives. The more you do this, the more your mind will stop always turning down a dark path and will instead walk towards a lighter, happier one.
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3. The All or Nothing Mentality
Some anxious people will often tend to over dramatize situations to the point where reality becomes harder to define. Situations and events can be perceived from one extreme or the other but not from a neutral and realistic standpoint. For example, if you were performing on stage in a play and you accidentally tripped near the edge of the stage but managed to get up quickly unhurt and carried on. In the anxious persons' mind they will say ‘I embarrassed myself, I almost fell off the edge of the stage and broke my neck and I would have ended up in hospital’. This would be the negative and over dramatized version of events. Whereas the more optimistic individual would say ‘well that was embarrassing, but I am okay and not hurt. I will carry on and pretend as if it did not happen. Then before you know it everyone will have forgotten that I fell over at all’.
These reactions to the event are complete polar opposites and whilst some would say a positive perspective is inbuilt to a person, I believe it can be learnt as well. In any given scenario you have to ask yourself ‘what is the worst thing that could realistically happen to me?’ Falling to the ground is the answer, and the solution is to simply pick yourself up and start again. Knowing what the worst outcome is can often act to reassure an anxious person. However, the key is to believing the realistic worst case outcome rather than the over dramatized version.
4. Overcoming Fear
A huge burden when you are anxious is a fear of everything. It can be small things such as boiling the kettle and leaving the house, to bigger issues such as doing a speech or presentation in front of a large crowd of people. The difference is that these larger fears also manifest themselves in people who are normally not anxious individuals. The issue is more the smaller fears. Again as in point three, one has to ask oneself ‘what is the worst that could happen to me?’ Think it and let it wash over you. Take a deep breath and push yourself to open that front door, to be brave and to take life head on.
Repetition and more repetition will provide reassurance, confidence and belief and it will eventually dawn on the anxious person that sometimes it is okay and that they are safe. Eventually these small thoughts will grow as they become more confident in themselves. It is a daily struggle but facing these small daily tasks can really show you the way forwards to a life without anxiety.
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5. Regain Control of Your Life
When you are feeling anxious, you can also feel lost, hopeless, depressed and generally alone. It can be difficult to see clearly or to focus on any given task, from driving to being at work as fear is overriding your mental outlook. Taking stock of situations can be hard but you need to always stop and look up at the ceiling or sky as was mentioned earlier, and take five deep breaths in and out. When you stop to reflect in this way, you are also removing yourself for a brief moment from the situation which is causing the fear. This causes your brain to re-evaluate your thoughts and worries and helps to ground you and to make you become more rational and realistic.
Time and repetition of this exercise as well as writing down and thinking the opposite scenarios to those negative ones, are just a few of the ways in which you can overcome your anxiety and lead a happier and more fulfilling life.
Do not let nervousness take control of you, take control of it and fight back. Even if you have to fake your confidence at first, push yourself and challenge yourself to do so and you will be richly rewarded in your daily life. So start now and take your worries head on, one day at a time and ask yourself, ‘what is the best thing that could happen?’ instead.
Below is a video from Joyce Meyer with lots of tips on how to overcome worry and apprehension.