If you have an anxiety disorder, you can at least be comforted by the fact that it is relatively common, and you are not alone. But sleeplessness, racing thoughts, depression, headaches, panic attacks—these are things you share with others who have an anxiety disorder, and they are not comforting.
So how can you cope? Because there are things you can do to manage your anxiety disorder.
Controlling your thoughts.
If you have anxiety, it may be exacerbated—or brought on almost entirely—by allowing yourself to exaggerate or catastrophize aspects of a situation. You may drill down to details that you think are sure to become a disaster, and the more you think about them, the worse they get.
If you are engaging in such thoughts, it is important for you to be able to identify what you are doing. To feel as if you are standing outside yourself, and identify this toxic thinking. The sooner you can pinpoint such thoughts that bring on your anxiety, the sooner you’ll be able to shut them down.
To do that, you will need to challenge your thoughts repeatedly, which is how you can interrupt the pattern of detrimental thinking and overcome it over time. Ask yourself what is the absolute worst thing that could happen, and would that outcome really be so bad? Ask yourself, if you were a friend of yours, would that friend think what you’re thinking is really so terrible? Even if it would be terrible, ask yourself if it would be so terrible in a week, month, or year? The answer is almost always no. This helps you become more objective about your own thoughts. And it helps you see that your thinking patterns are not helpful to living a healthy, productive life.
Writing it down.
Journaling is a great way to keep yourself on an even keel. But just writing down what makes you anxious can help, even if it’s just bullet points. Acknowledge that you feel anxious, and acknowledge what you feel anxious about. Addressing your fears and giving it a name help you reframe the worries that plague you.
Allocate a certain amount of time in which to write down your anxious thoughts, like 15 minutes a day or an hour a week, or whatever fits your schedule. But don’t spend too much time. You don’t want to dwell on your anxiety. You just want to note what they are so you can acknowledge them and move on for a productive day.
Managing what’s possible.
With practice and persistence, you can control your way of thinking. It’s often what you can’t control that causes many people anxiety. So, it’s good to identify things you can control, like your own thoughts, and things you can’t control, like what other people think. In between, there are plenty of areas to consider. When you are in a situation that makes you feel anxious, what are the things you can control, or control partially? You may be able to control your emotions to a certain extent, for example. Or you may be able to control your intensity of focus somewhat.
Whatever is outside of your control is what you need to let go of. Just concentrate on what you can control, wholly or partially.
Breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, listening to classical music—whatever calming practices you can incorporate into your life will help give you peace from your worries. Physical exercise is also a boon because it boosts your serotonin, which helps give you a feeling of well-being. And if you are outside walking in nature or engaging in other physical exercise, you are taking a break from work or home activities, thus getting away from your worries for a bit. This allows you time to examine your thoughts. You can be objective and step out of yourself to see how your thoughts are affecting you negatively. Then you can work on dialing down your anxiety to live a more healthy, peaceful life.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact