Best ways to overcome anxiety
Part One: Physical Reaction
Distressing Physical Arousal – sympathetic arousal causes the heart thumping, pulse-racing, dizzy, tingly, shortness of breath physical symptoms that can come out of the blue and are intolerable when not understood. Even high levels of anxiety can cause physical tension in the jaw, neck and back as well as an emotional somatic feeling of doom or dread in the pit of the stomach, which will set off a mental search for what might be causing it.
Technique 1: Manage the body.
- Eat right
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine, sugar and caffeine
- On going self care
- Consider hormonal changes
Technique 2: Breathe
Breathing will slow down or stop the stress response
Do the conscious, deep breathing for about 1 minute at a time, 10-15 times per day every time you are waiting for something eg., the phone to ring, an appointment, the kettle to boil, waiting in a line etc.
Technique 3: Mindful Awareness
Close your eyes and breathe; noticing the body, how the intake of air feels, how the heart beats, what sensations you can feel in the gut etc
- With eyes still closed, purposefully shift your awareness away from your body to everything you can hear or smell or feel through your skin
You will learn in a physical way that you can control what aspects of the world – internal or external –you’ll notice, giving you an internal locus of control and learning that when you can ignore physical sensations
Part Two: Tension, Stress and Dread
These methods are most helpful for diminishing chronic tension.
Technique 4: Don’t listen when worry calls your name
This feeling of dread and tension comprises a state of low grade fear, which can also cause other physical symptoms, like headache, joint pain and ulcers. The feeling of dread is just the emotional manifestation of physical tension.
This ‘Don’t Listen’ method decreases the tension by combining a decision to ignore the voice of worry with a cue for the relaxation state.
Technique 5: Knowing, Not Showing, Anger
When you fear anger because of past experience, the very feeling of anger, even though it remains unconscious, can produce anxiety To know you’re angry doesn’t require you to show you’re angry.
A simple technique: Next time you feel stricken with anxiety, you should sit down and write as many answers as possible to this question, “If I were angry, what might I be angry about?” Restrict answers to single words or brief phrases.
This may open the door to get some insight into the connection between your anger and your anxiety.
Technique 6: Have a Little Fun
Laughing is a great way to increase good feelings and discharge tension. Getting in touch with fun and play isn’t easy for the serious, tense worrier.
Part Three: The Mental Stress
These methods deal with the difficult problem of a brain that won’t stop thinking about distressing thoughts or where worry suffocates your mental and emotional life.
Technique 7: Turning it Off
Sit quietly with eyes closed and focus on an image of an open container ready to receive every issue on your mind. See and name each issue or worry and imagine putting it into the container. When no more issues come to mind, ‘put a lid’ on the container and place it on a shelf or in some other out of the way place until you need to go back to get something from it. Once you have the container on the shelf, you invite into the space that is left in your mind whatever is the most important current thought or feeling.
Technique 8: Worry Well, but Only Once
Some worries just have to be faced head-on, and worrying about them the right way can help eliminate secondary, unnecessary worrying. When you feel that your worries are out of control try this next method:
Whenever the thought pops up again say, “Stop! I already worried” and divert your thoughts as quickly as possible to another activity – you may need to make a list of these possible diversions beforehand.
Technique 9: Learn to Plan Instead of Worry
A big difference between planning and worrying is that a good plan doesn’t need constant review. An anxious brain, however, will reconsider a plan over and over to be sure it’s the right plan.
It is important to learn the fundamentals of planning as it can make a big difference in calming a ruminative mind. These include:
- Concretely identifying the problem
- Listing the problem solving options
- Picking one of the options
- Writing out a plan of action
To be successful in this approach, you must also have learned to apply the thought-stopping/thought-replacing tools or you can turn planning into endless cycles of replanning.
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