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Ten Tips for Managing Your Anxiety

01 April 2020 15:09

Graham Davey, author of The Anxiety Epidemic, gives his ten tips for managing your anxiety.

1. Accept that anxiety is a normal emotion and can be helpful

Anxiety isn’t unnatural – it’s evolved to be helpful. Anxiety can help you deal with anticipated threats and challenges. It can help you stay focused in an interview and help to speed you home on a dark night. Bouts of anxiety usually don’t last very long, so try not to fight off your feelings but accept them. Message to self: Its okay to be anxious.

2. Understand that anxiety can’t harm you

It’s usually you that wrongly interprets signs of anxiety as being possibly harmful. Anxiety is not necessarily a pleasant feeling, but the physiological indications of anxiety such as perspiring, increased heart rate and trembling, are not harmful, nor are they signs of impending illness. Message to self: Anxiety can’t harm me; I can still do what I need to do.

3. Avoid avoidance

Avoiding highly dangerous things – such as running in front of moving cars – is quite sensible and reasonable. But if you’re avoiding things that most other people think are safe, then you may need to deal with what may be inappropriate anxiety. Avoiding the things that make you anxious never allows you to find out the reality of the threat – you can’t discover there’s no monster in the closet if you continue to avoid opening the closet door. Message to self: Anxiety feeds off avoidance; Ill try and find a way to face my fears.

4. Check that your anxiety is justified

Very often you should reality-check your anxieties – is what you’re anxious about really a significant threat or challenge, and are other people anxious about the things you are? Often the thing causing your anxiety may not be as dangerous or threatening as you think. Message to self: Is my anxiety justified?

5. Consider being adventurous rather than avoiding risk and uncertainty

Life is basically an adventure. There are no plans set out to be followed from the beginning; you can get as much out of life as you want to. Try to tip the balance from avoiding risk to seeking out new experiences. There is nothing that fuels anxiety like trying to control uncertainty, so try to counteract this by doing things like going into a new situation where you don’t know what will happen and without seeking reassurances from others first. Message to self: I will do something adventurous every week.

6. No one is perfect – take a break from the rigid rules that make you anxious

Setting the highest standards for everything, all the time, is a recipe for stress and anxiety. So, try to analyse the kinds of rigid rules that you yourself apply and replace these with more realistic expectations. These are things like ‘I must never let anyone down’ or ‘Life should always be fair’. Try to think of some more reasonable alternatives. For example, ‘I need to be fully in control of everything I do’ could become ‘I will do my best but accept that some things are out of my control.’ Message to self: No one is perfect – I will live my life using realistic rules.

7. Refuse to let anxiety hold you back

To overcome anxiety, you’ll have to undertake some challenges that initially make you feel anxious, but this can be an uplifting and valuable experience if you eventually manage to prove your anxiety wrong. Trying new things, taking challenges and solving problems all add up to a healthier and more productive life. Message to self: I will not let my anxiety hold me back.

8. Recruit help to change

Moving on from anxiety will require you to change a lot of things you do and the way you do them, so it’s always helpful to enlist the help of family or friends to try to achieve these changes. But beware – there are some forms of help from others that can reinforce your anxiety. Try not to seek reassurances from others that things will be okay or ask them to do something for you. This confirms you’re still anxious, and it may prevent you from facing up to your fears. Message to self: I’m happy to ask friends and family to help me to achieve changes that will reduce my anxiety.

9. Be aware of the bigger picture

You’re not simply your anxiety – believe it or not, there is a lot more to you. You’re a living, breathing human being whose life consists of many more things. But aspects of your broader lifestyle may be colluding with your anxiety, maintaining it, and preventing you from moving on. Try to organise your life so that you’re able to get a regular good night’s sleep, and if you also feel depressed, try to get help because that may leave you more confident to overcome your anxiety. Becoming over-reliant on medication or alcohol is also unlikely to help you move on. Regular exercise is known to reduce anxiety, and a healthy diet is associated with better mental health. Message to self: Ill try to embrace a more healthy lifestyle and move on from anxiety.

10. Seek professional help if you feel you need it

Tackling your anxiety problems on your own can be a daunting and overwhelming prospect, and you shouldn’t be afraid to seek more structured support from a therapist or counsellor. If your anxiety is particularly distressing, it would be sensible to seek professional help. You may be able to find suitable psychotherapeutic help privately, or alternatively you can approach your local health services or your GP or physician for advice.