Anxiety can be one of the most crippling sensations. There are many people who suffer from serious anxiety problems which on many occasions lead them to find themselves in the most stressful and painful situations; not only for themselves but also for their loved ones and others around them. Anxiety can start to manifest for various reasons; however, the root is often the same, traumas which were neglected for far too long which suddenly threaten to surface all at once and are often triggered by things which may seem totally unrelated or not of great importance. We fail to recognize when the mind and soul are in overload, it is natural for little things to often be cause for intense reactions; we should try to remember this, in order to show genuine compassion when interacting with a person who is suffering from anxiety.
There are several ways to try to cope with anxiety, the effectiveness of each method will depend on each specific case and each person. However, those who suffer from anxiety usually have certain identical behaviors or symptoms; therefore, some general advice can be given to help reduce the level of anxiety and/or prevent an anxiety attack.
1) Accept your anxiety: The first thing to do when suffering from anxiety is to accept it, this will be a great step towards learning to cope with it; in other words, you learn to be gentle with yourself. By accepting your anxiety, you are showing yourself patience and love– the very things your mind and soul need to heal. Denying the obvious will bring forth more frustration which in the long term will have much more serious and negative consequences. Besides, you cannot start the process of healing when you are in denial, to keep denying your anxiety will only set you back.
2) Learn to change the angle of your perception: The attitude one has when facing difficult situations will be crucial for how things are resolved. If you live with anxiety, I am sure you have been recommended to try to see the glass half full and not half empty. I know it sounds almost callous to hear someone say this, and often it does not help to have others quote something without acknowledging and validating the emotions you might be experiencing. With that said, I am not going to patronize you, nor do I want to come across as a cheerleader for “focusing on the positive only”– I know just how detrimental that approach can be when dealing with actual traumas and serious pain. I will however, emphasize the power of learning to look at things from different angles. A good therapist will help you look at a situation the way a student looks at a geometry problem, taking each angle into consideration and analyzing its potential lesson and outcome. The process of learning to observe and analyze all potential angles, will help you learn to trust your own choices; learning to take responsibility for your life but also letting go of responsibility and burdens which are not yours to carry. Because it is done through analysis rather than repetition (superficial therapy), your subconscious gets reprogrammed, which in turn will help you to start to build the life you want.
3) Work on eliminating your fears: On many occasions anxiety is generated by certain fears with which the person lives. Although it is difficult to deal with them, it is not always impossible; it will be good to face them and try to get rid of all the ideas that cause anxiety to the person. A good therapist will help you identify your fears; it matters not if they are big or small; a plan will be set, so you may be better equipped to mentally deal with your fears as they surface. On your own, you can start by writing a list of the things that scare you and why. How can you make them less scary? If they are big fears, it is okay to tackle those slowly and to do so after you have worked on those which seem less monumental to you.
4) Eliminate toxic people from your life: It is common these days to consider anyone who doesn’t think the same as toxic; that is not the terminology I am referring to here–you don’t want to live in delusion or close yourself to life. Toxic people are those whom no matter how many boundaries you have set, they continue violating them. Toxic people don’t always “act” bad, they can “act” charming yet be passive aggressive, which means they like to hurt you with a smile on their face and pretend they can’t understand why you would set limits with them.
Within these toxic people, might be those to whom you may have explained about your anxiety, its triggers, and instead of being supportive and respectful, they choose to do things to purposely trigger your anxiety; they often behave like that, so their fragile and false ego may feel “better”. While you are trying to heal, it is best to stay away from those people; as you heal, they will trigger you less and less and you won’t care what they do, but until then the best option is to get away from everything that triggers and destabilizes you. I recommend waiting until you are thinking calmly before you write down which relationships, people or situations that generate anxiety cannot be helped and have to go for a while or permanently. Don’t feel bad about it, since it is clear without them, your life will be much better.
5) Life goes on: You have anxiety, you are not dead. You are wounded you are not broken; even if you feel broken, you can be put back together again…wiser, stronger. Anxiety is a problem with consequences that can be very negative; even so, this cannot prevent you from continuing with the course of your life. Look at anxiety as a detour, a stumbling block which needs to be overcome; it does not have to rule your life. The best option to cope with anxiety is to continue leading a life as normal as possible (normal for you) while working on addressing the underlying issues and pain–it is not about hiding or denying, it is about balance.
6) Learn to flow with life: As you start to heal, it is only natural to doubt whether you will overcome your anxiety or not. Sometimes, people who have lived with anxiety, fear it will come back….newsflash, the road to healing isn’t a fast one.
As you heal, there will be times your anxiety will seem as if it disappeared, only to suddenly surface again…this is natural–don’t give up on your healing because of it. As you progress, you will realize more and more how anxiety is under your control.
The best way to keep anxiety under your control is to acknowledge it without focusing on it. No different than when you get up in the morning, look out the window and see rain pouring; you don’t freak out over it, you just accept that it is. If you apply the same attitude to your anxiety, you will be acknowledging it but taking its power away “I feel anxious right now, it’s okay, is natural and it will pass. Is there anything I can do to ease the emotion?”–Maybe you can refocus or maybe you can just sit with it and let it flow. As you do this, anxiety will lose its power, and you will start to feel in control.
As C. H Spurgeon said “Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.” Anxiety doesn’t have to rule your life nor do you have to fear it. If anxiety has manifested in your life, it is life’s wisdom. Life is using anxiety to point out things which need your attention; it wants you to stop pretending to live life and start to live life the way you want it to. The so called negative emotions most fear, can be life’s greatest blessing if looked at from the right angle. They are scary not because they are dangerous to us, but dangerous to the masks we we carry and to the chains we live with.