Anxiety is often a result of stress stemming from major changes like moving or starting a new job. It can make us worry and feel tense, irritable, reactive. It makes relaxing and sleeping harder, which in turn makes it even more difficult to surmount the challenges we’re facing. If we’re lucky, these symptoms will disappear after a few days or weeks as worries subside and we get into a new routine.
But what if your anxiety doesn’t go away? What if you feel worried for no apparent reason? Even your worry can be a source of worry. The good news is, whether you suffer from situational anxiety, or seem to be plagued by it consistently, it IS possible to manage the symptoms.
Here are five techniques that will help get you on the path to taking control of your emotions.
1. Understand the nature of anxiety.
We all experience anxiety; it’s a natural human state and a vital part of our lives. Anxiety helps us identify and respond to danger in either “fight” or “flight" mode. It can also motivate us to deal with difficult challenges.
On the other hand, an anxiety disorder can lead to a number of health risks. It’s important to understand your anxiety in terms of severity, triggers, and behavior. Your anxiety might be expressed through a variety of behaviors including panic attacks, phobias, and obsessive habits. If you don't learn to manage it, anxiety at this level can be debilitating. But how do you do that?
2. Explore the underlying causes.
Anxiety disorders can be triggered by a range of specific external or internal stimuli, from traumatic memories, specific objects, particular situations, and physical locations to a persistent general worry that something bad will happen in the future.
Trauma (such as family dissolution, ongoing bullying or conflict, abuse, or life-altering events such as car accidents) can make people more susceptible to anxiety. Additional stress factors may be more than your normal coping mechanisms can handle.
Part of the process of understanding our anxiety involves being curious about our developmental history and learning to regulate our physical state.
3. Set healthy limits in your relationships.
Severe anxiety can impair your ability to sustain healthy relationships. It feels easier, safer to start withdrawing, or stop attending social functions. You might become irritable and irrational, or worry unnecessarily that something negative is going to happen.
The first step is to start to identify our “reality,” as defined by our thoughts and feelings. When anxiety is present, we feel overwhelmed by our emotions, so identifying and dissecting them can be difficult. But, sharing your struggle with someone you trust can be incredibly helpful. It's equally important to identify toxic relationships that might be contributing to your anxiety, and free yourself from their influence.
4. Learn relaxation techniques to calm your stressed nervous system.
5. Use mindfulness skills.
Mindfulness focuses on changing the relationship between the anxious person and their thoughts, rather than changing the thoughts themselves. We become a witness to our process, we become aware.
Meditation can help people break out of the ‘automatic pilot mode’ that leads to negative ways of thinking and responding. Carl Jung stated that unless we make “the unconscious, conscious, it will direct our life, and we call it fate.” With the help of therapy, we can interrupt this unconsciousness, becoming aware of the way our environment triggers our physiology, thoughts, and subsequent emotional states.
Anxiety can be debilitating condition that impacts many facets of your life. Whether it’s brought on by stressful situations or a genetic predisposition to anxiety, the effects are controllable. Acknowledging there may be a problem is often the darkness before the dawn.