Anxiety is no joke. Trust me, I know. There are many types of Anxiety disorders out there and they can affect people in many different ways. Some people can shrug off anxiety fairly easily while others, those with Chemical Imbalances that make them perceive danger at higher levels, struggle to get through a day as they ruminate on all of the things that can wrong.
The trouble with an anxiety disorder is that it mimics a broken record player. All of the scenarios that you worry over, whether it be messing up at work or fearing that you have some incurable disease, tend to play over and over in your brain as if they're stuck on repeat.
People's worries are always different and can range from "somewhat" rational to completely irrational. However, in the mind of the worrier, these scenarios can feel more real than that phone in your hand or the computer screen in front of you right now.
But, I'm guessing since you arrived to this post, you probably have some idea of anxiety and have possibly experienced it your self, whether generalized or a disorder (I'm going to come up with a better name than disorder one of these days).
So, you're wanting to know some good strategies to help you beat it?
1) Jump out of Bed!
Many people complain that their anxiety effects them more in the morning as they're waking up, while others say they can't sleep at night tossing and turning. These two times of day are very important to our mental health. We need good rest at night to function properly during the day, and we need a good morning to keep us positive for what we have ahead of us.
So, depending on what time of day is worse for you.... do the following.
In the Morning- As soon as your alarm sounds, or your eyes open, count down from 5. Once you reach 1, spring yourself out of the bed! Don't hit snooze, don't lay there for another 5 minutes, just don't. Staying in bed in the morning just leaves your anxious mind to ruminate over tasks you have to get done that day or scary scenarios that you make up as you lay there. Jumping out of the bed, and hopping to a task that makes you feel good in the morning, keeps your mind off of the negative and on the positive.
In the Evening- If you feel yourself getting restless and overthinking your to do list for the next day, Jump Out Of Bed! Do not lay there contemplating all of the many situations that have or haven't happened yet. Instead, get up, grab a cup of warm water, milk, or tea, or maybe a book, but DO NOT LOOK AT YOUR PHONE!!! I, repeat, do not look at your phone. The light of your phone and all of the constant reminders of your day and what you need to do is not going to help. Even if you hate to read, at least read a magazine until you get sleepy, or find another activity to take your mind off of the worries until you are very tired, then return to bed. Repeat if necessary.
2) Do Not Avoid!
When we are faced with anxious situations or things that trigger our anxiety, we tend to try to avoid them. This is exactly what your anxiety wants you to do. Don't let it run your life! If certain activities (like, going out with your friends) tend to cause anxious thoughts (like, what if something happens to my kids/pets while I'm away), you should still carry out that activity, and often. Doing this will desensitize you to the worry.
Same goes for tasks that are causing you anxiety! That question you keep putting off asking your boss at work because you (irrationally) think he/she is mad at you...... Schedule a meeting and stick to it. Complete the task. Don't avoid it and let it continue to build fear in you, Check It Off and Be done with it.
3. Be more Mindful not Mindless
This can be carried out in a number of ways. First thing that comes to mind for me, however, is to be more mindful in your daily tasks rather than mindless. Here's an example: One of your daily worries is that you left your hair straightener on. The reason this worries you is because you mindlessly turned it off/unplugged it, and now you're questioning whether or not you did it. Take a more mindful approach to this task. Concentrate on the task as you carry it out. Look at the straightener and tell yourself I'm unplugging my straightener now. Be Mindful as you reach to unplug it, feel the cord in your hand, and unplug it. Look at the now empty socket on the wall, and tell yourself the straightener is now unplugged. This sounds like it's making the task much longer, but really it will take the same amount of time as doing it mindlessly, except this time you were present as you did it. This will keep you from getting down the road and turning back to check that you completed the task.
Mindfulness can be used in many more ways than just this, and I'll talk about it more in future blog posts, but the simple act of being "present" can keep you from spiraling into your anxiety.
4. Stop Believing Everything You Think
Trust me when I say I know this is easier said than done. However, trying to invoke this strategy can go hand in hand with practicing being mindful. Anxiety is there to scare you, in fact anxiety is really there to save your life. Anxiety in itself is our Fight or Flight response. It's the thing that prompted us back in caveman days of impeding danger, so we could prepare ourselves to Fight or Flee. Nowadays, we don't have lions lurking around a corner ready to attack us. (well, I don't at least) Instead, we have angry bosses, constant text messages that could have some awful message in them, doctor visits, and many other things, though not life threatening, feel life threatening. And our anxiety is still there to warn us of potential danger, however, it is no longer really rationalized. If your boss isn't in the best mood one day and calls you in his/her office, you may immediately catastrophize the situation with thinking you've done something wrong and you're about to lose your job, but remember not to believe everything you think.... rationalize the situation and calm your mind. Then walk in knowing that whatever the outcome it's not the end of the world.
5. Talk To Someone
And probably one of the most important things to do is talk to a therapist. If you're having a hard time and really struggling with your anxiety, it's best to see a specialist who can help you come up with strategies that fit your particular case of anxiety. Keeping things bottled up or only in your head can deplete your energy and make it harder to beat anxiety, so talk about it with a therapist.
**BONUS** If you are having troubled finding someone to talk to, try journaling your worries, at least it will get them out of your head, and maybe help you see them more clearly.