Anxiety abounds in a world filled with 24-hour news cycles, hectic schedules, social expectations, and our own state of personal ups and downs.
You don’t have to expect to just muddle through with worry and stress as your constant companions. You can get your anxiety under control and live the free and productive life you long for. But how?
The idea is to keep anxiety reserved for real danger and to feel more in control when worry and fear creep up. You can develop the power to rein in your thoughts and restore calm quickly and effectively. These tips for getting anxiety under control can help you relax:
1. Make Self-care Happen
This one is non-negotiable. A lack of sleep, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle can have a huge impact on your mental health. To feel less pushed around by anxiety, improve your sense of balance and self-control with the basics:
A regular sleep routine. Take a nap if you need it!
Healthy eating and hydration habits
Daily movement, exercise, and enjoyable activities
Repeat an uplifting mantra throughout the day
Self-care is the cornerstone for your overall health. Don’t put your personal needs aside. You matter!
2. Address your Stress
Stress and uncertainty are a part of life. Some of us can roll with life as it comes. Some of us need a bit of help managing the roller coaster ride. There’s no shame in building in some daily techniques to reduce the strain on your mind and body. Practice one or more of the following to ease anxiety on a regular basis:
Tai Chi, Yoga, or deep stretching
Deep breathing exercises
3. Reduce Mental Input and Pay Attention
In other words, step away from the beeps and buzzes alerting you to your technology. Let the emails and voicemails wait. Turn off the newsfeeds and background noise.
Do your best to get quiet and notice what’s happening within you.
What thoughts are recurring?
How is your body responding?
What feels soothing or distracts you from the worry?
Anxiety counts on your inability, or unwillingness, to slow things down. It counts on racing thoughts and reaction. Choose to be deliberate and thoughtful about what you allow to affect you and how you respond. Remind yourself that you are in charge of you. Stay present and intentional.
4. Put Your Thoughts to the Test
Be tough on your racing thoughts. Get real with the critic in your head.
Will the wedding toast really be “totally humiliating?”
Does your partner truly have one foot out the door?
Does your boss really think you are the worst employee on his team?
Challenge the thoughts you allow to derail your peace and participation in life. Regret and fears don’t have to rule you if you can learn to recognize unhelpful rumination and push through it. Calm down quickly by logically rejecting what isn’t true about you and others.
Ask a few of these questions to reduce anxiety:
Are my worries realistic or likely to occur?
Is the worst-case scenario, really so bad?
How might I manage my imagined catastrophe?
What do I think being unprepared or incapable of handling bad things says about me? Is this true?
Think things through. Let yourself process, challenge, and put to rest unproductive thinking.
5. Get Busy: Goals, Generosity, and Gratitude are a Great Start
Some clichés are based on reality. It’s true that when we focus on the suffering of others, we find peace and calm. There may be nothing more centering than kindness.
Life is much more than a list of worries, possible problems, or unwanted uncertainties. What if you weren’t upset so often? How would you live if you were worry-free? Who would you reach out to if you felt sure and confident? Those are the things that give life meaning and direction.
To get out of your head and restore calm, you must act more and obsess less.
Make a point of doing what matters to you, giving your time and energy to others who are in need. Actively look for things and people to be grateful for.
6. Accept What Is and Embrace Your Place in the Present Moment
You may have been frightened, freaked out, overwrought, even panicked. Okay. Tell yourself the truth about that (without judgment) and allow it to be the former state of things. Realize too, that all you must deal with right now is to calm down quickly.
And, what’s happening right now? You are reading this blog, seeking help, and exercising a moment of freedom and choice to overcome anxiety. Congratulations! Reaching out for help by talking to trusted friends or a counseling professional is a brave first step toward reducing excessive worry and anxiety.
Roy Faget, MA, LPC Intern, LMFT Associate, works at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin with both couples and individuals who are experiencing anxious thoughts, feelings, and anxiety-provoking life circumstances. For support in combating worry in your life or your partner’s life, give Roy a call by dialing (512) 270-4883, ext. 109, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.