Coping with anxiety

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Are you coping with anxiety – or is it dominating your life? Without the right coping mechanisms, anxiety can spiral out of control. Sleeplessness, irritability and physical symptoms can all create a situation where anxious feelings get worse.

Often it feels like the situation is beyond your control. However, with the right practices and approach, you can begin to be in charge of your anxiety, rather than it control you.

The key thing is to be patient. Anxiety encompasses many symptoms and feelings for different people, and what works on one individual may have no effect on another. Try a technique thoroughly before you regard it as effective or not. And if not, move on to the next method.

Here are some common and effective methods to coping with anxiety.

  • Say your worry over and over and over and over again.

This method is based on the idea that if you were scared of spiders, your fear would diminish by the time you held your one hundredth one. You’d start off being incredibly panicky, until that wore off, and in the end you’d be rather bored of them. Try repeating the source of anxiety in your head or out loud for twenty minutes. The idea is that the ‘boredome therapy’ will displace your anxious feelings.

  • Aggravate the situation

This works in something you do fairly regularly like a job interview, for example. What is it you fear most? Not being able to say anything? Having long pauses? Stumbling when it comes to shaking hands? On your next job interview, engineer this ‘worse case scenario’ by pausing for an extra long time or screw the handshake up a little, and realise that they are tiny blimps in the bigger picture.

  • Don’t jump to conclusions

Often we fear our thoughts. We might think something that will go against our character and ‘normal’ behaviour. For example, we could see someone run past and think about tripping them up. We wouldn’t actually do it, and we are often shocked that we’ve even thought such a thing. Our brain is always firing little thoughts here and there, and it’s the imagination that is creating these scenarios. Don’t worry about thinking them, just know that you’re not likely to act them out.

  • False alarms

Anxiety can be set off by one sensation, a rapid heart beat or a cold sweat. They don’t rule you, they’re just passing by – see them as fire engines heading towards you and passing you by as they head toards their destination far away.

  • Recognise false alarms

That fear of your house burning down because you left the iron on has never come true. That rapid heart beat doesn’t mean you’re having a heart attack; it’s your body’s natural response to a number of things. Many thoughts and sensations that we interpret as cues for concern―even panic―are just background noise. Let them just drift past you.

  • Schedule your worry

You’re at work, and you suddenly feel an anxiety pang. Write it down on your to-do list, and tell yourself that you’ll schedule it in later, say 4.30pm. Move on to your next item on the to-do list and keep busy. At 4.30pm check in to your worry bank and recollect what it was. You either cannot remember what the pang was about, or it has given you a bit of perspective that right now, it doesn’t feel like anything to be worked up about.

So many people live with anxiety, and many have their own little ways of dealing with these pangs, moments or attacks. When you start recognising the signs, be in the moment, realise them, and try to watch them pass by. Your life can still continue with these sensations, and you can achieve almost anything, with your anxiety lurking in the background – just don’t give it centrestage.

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