At the root of all anxiety is the same fear – losing control or feeling as if you are losing control. Society is moving at a quicker pace these days, and many of us are expected to be contactable and ‘on’ 24/7. It should come as no surprise therefore that cases of chronic anxiety are on the rise.
For those who struggle with anxiety, attacks can come at any time – sometimes for no obvious reason. This instigates a vicious cycle where the sufferer fears having an anxiety attack and in turn triggers one. This is called anticipatory anxiety.
In most (if not all) cases of fears and phobias, the anxiety is disproportionate to the actual risk involved. This means it is all in the mind and that is something you can, with practise, control.
Take a look at the following tips:
Stop anxious feelings in their tracks
When you begin to feel your anxiety levels rising, take a deep breath and say to yourself ‘stop!’. Breathe deeply again and ask yourself a question, like: ‘What is thought?’ or ‘Where did I come from?’. This may sound like an odd strategy, but these questions have no real answer, so will make your mind stop. In this space you can regain a sense of calm and rationality.
Squeeze a trigger
When you start to become anxious squeeze a part of your body, for example you could squeeze your thumb and forefinger together. Focus all of your attention on this sensation and again, say to yourself ‘stop!’. Breathe slowly and consciously, noting how this calms you down. Once you feel more relaxed, release your trigger. You can use this trigger wherever you are when an anxious thought arises to remind yourself to stop and slow your thoughts down.
Take it one step at a time
Anxiety can often stem from a sense of being overwhelmed. This can happen when all you see is the situation in its entirety, all at once. This is like being presented with the task of finding a needle in a haystack – it seems impossible and totally overwhelming.
When you focus on one task at a time, like picking away one piece of hay, you will find in no time that you’ve torn the whole stack down and found the needle. Try to approach overwhelming situations in the same way. Take things one step at a time and remember – life is a process! Embrace the process and take control.
There are always options
Anxiety can also stem from worrying about what other people will think of you if you have an anxiety attack or need to remove yourself from a situation. At these moments it is important to remind yourself that a) it doesn’t matter what people think of you and b) there are always options. You have a choice of what to do in almost all situations, it is up to you how you decide to act. In some cases, the right choice for you will be to leave the situation that’s causing you anxiety. Just knowing that you always have this choice can often be enough to start diminishing anxious thoughts.