Anxiety can be a helpful, healthy emotion, but when it spurs out of control it can be especially difficult to deal with. Following are a few techniques to help you manage your anxiety better:
1. Understand false alarms
Intense anxiety or a panic attack may feel like you are dying. It’s important to understand how such an instance may mimic a panic attack but that’s only because the brain has made you believe it’s a heart attack or an uncontrollable symptom. When you experience such symptoms, understand that a panic attack is only a momentary experience of intense anxiety but it does fade away and is definitely not life threatening.
2. Learn to challenge your thoughts
In a state of anxiety, one’s thoughts are generally highly unrealistic and unlikely to occur in reality. There is a tendency to think of the worst possible outcome when anxious. In fact, one’s experience of anxiety comes from these flawed perceptions and thoughts about a situation. In such a situation, make it a habit to question the possibility of your thought actually occurring in reality and even if it does what would be so bad about it. Make a list of all possible outcomes, positive and negative for a situation. Challenge your present negative thought and question the probability of its occurrence. For example: one may think that asking a question in a group meeting may bring them ridicule.
Ask yourself what are the other possibilities in such a situation? That people may appreciate their question, be indifferent to the question, or many other questions may be brought forth because of his point or if nothing else you at least participated in the meeting. Now even if people feel it’s a ridiculous question, how many times in the past has someone been ridiculed for asking a question? Does that really happen? Or is it just perceived by you because you are overly sensitive to rejection due to anxiety?
3. Avoid Avoidance
The biggest mistakes people with anxiety make is avoiding the triggers in their environment which makes them anxious. The way out of anxiety is only through it. Do not avoid such situations. In fact, try to gradually expose yourself to that which makes you anxious starting from a lower intensity trigger moving up to a more anxiety producing trigger. For example: If you get anxious talking on the phone to a friend in front of others, try having a conversation on WhatsApp first in front of other people. Then initiate a call for 2 minutes in front of one another person, then a 2 minutes call in front of 3-4 people gradually increasing the time and number of people till you can habituate yourself to such a situation.
4. Equip yourself with relaxation techniques
This differs from person to person. Indulge in activities on a daily basis (with or without the experience of anxiety) that lower your stress and help you relax such as exercising, listening to music, reading, practising a hobby, spend time with loved ones. Learn relaxation techniques, visualization techniques and take a regular time out to de-stress.
5. Learn to identify unsolvable problems
Very often, anxious individuals are unable to distinguish between a real / solvable problem versus an imagined /unsolvable problem. Learn to ask yourself; “Is this a problem I am currently facing or something I fear may happen (what if)?”“Even if it’s a problem I am currently facing, can I do something about it or is it unsolvable?”A concern that is solvable and you can take action on right away are the ones to work with.If the concern is presently there and solvable, make a list all possible ways to deal with it (even if some seem ridiculous). Focus on those things you can try and change rather than trying for perfection or fretting over what cannot be solved for.
6. Accept uncertainty
The inability to tolerate uncertainty is one of the main underlying causes of anxiety problems. People suffering from anxiety always want to be 100% assured about a certain outcome or decision. Worrying then is seen as a way to predict what may happen in the future or how things may go wrong and to control the problem. Thinking of all the ways in which things can go wrong does not make life decisions any more predictable. Focusing on worst case scenarios does not prevent them from occurring.
7. Stay in the present
The biggest issue with people suffering from anxiety is their inability to stay in the moment, they are constantly worrying about things that may go wrong in the future. Make it a habit to remind yourself to be in the present moment and really be involved. If your attention again drifts to thoughts of the future, gently bring it back to whatever you are doing at the moment and make the most of it.
8. Don't hesitate to ask for professional help
If despite your best efforts you are unable to manage your anxiety, do seek professional advice from a Clinical Psychologist or a Psychiatrist.