Most people experience fear or worry to some degree at different times in their life. Fear is a normal and necessary tool that our bodies create in response to dangerous or potentially dangerous situations. It helps us identify threatening situations, and initiates the fight or flight response, causing us to react and protect ourselves. Some of us even seek out this response for the “rush” by watching horror films, going to haunted houses, skydiving, riding roller coasters, or participating in high extreme sports.
We enjoy this, because not only is the fear present for a short amount of time, but the threat is fairly controlled and allows us to feel the pleasurable side of the fear response without being in any real danger. However, what if you’re living in a constant state of worry, or always feeling uneasy about every possible threat that may or may not exist? This is more about anxiety than general fear, and it can be very overwhelming and exhausting. If you are someone that struggles with anxiety, here are some things you can do to begin managing it:
Spend at least 2-minutes, 5 times per day doing calming exercises.
These may include deep breathing, visualization, listening to calming music, physical exercise, or anything else that relaxes you. This will help prevent your anxiety from becoming too overwhelming or out of control.
Plan ahead for stressful events.
The more prepared you can be for an anxiety-causing situation, such as traveling or public speaking, the less anxiety you will feel about being able to make it through the situation without any major complications.
Take time to relax between transitions.
Moving from one “role” or major activity to another can combine the worries from the first situation with the potential worries of the new situation. Therefore, taking time to relax between, say, coming home from work into home life, will ease some of the stress from the original situation, and leave you prepared and energized enough to cope with the new situation.
Challenge your negative or worrisome thoughts.
Try to lay out all of the facts of the situation, and focus on what you have control over. For example, if you are anxious about an important meeting, you may be having thoughts like, “What if my alarm doesn’t go off? What if there’s traffic? What if I’m late? What if I forget my notes? What if they ask me a question and I don’t know what to say? Am I going to look stupid?” Staying focused on these types of thoughts can not only cause you to experience more and more anxiety, but can become paralyzing, preventing you from being able to do the things you should be doing to get yourself prepared. Instead, you can say things to yourself, even out loud or on paper if necessary, such as, “I know I’ve planned well for this meeting. There may be some things that happen that are out of my control, but that will be okay-I can adjust. If something comes up that I haven’t planned for, it is likely that others will understand, and I will be able to manage”.
Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, and getting regular exercise.
Maintaining your physical health can be a major asset to lessening your anxiety. Also, make sure you limit your caffeine intake, as it is a known contributor to anxiety.
If your anxiety feels fairly constant, or is inhibiting your life in some way, talk to a mental health professional.
They can not only provide you with the other tools necessary for you to manage your anxiety, but can also help to determine whether or not it would be a good idea for you to consider medication. They can also help you move to new levels of overcoming your anxiety, such as supporting you in facing extremely difficult situations, and helping you implement your new tools into your daily living.
Feeling some fear and anxiety can be very helpful in certain situations-it may even be exhilarating when experienced for fun in a controlled environment. However, when it becomes a constant and debilitating part of your life, it crosses the line into unhealthy, and you don’t have to live that way. Start the process of overcoming it right now by not only using these steps, but by continuing to educate yourself and getting help and support from wherever possible.