Is there anything more difficult than dealing with things beyond our control? Most of us would probably say no to that question. We all struggle with challenges and wish we could control the outcome of many of the things happen to us. The truth of the matter is that we can’t. That is a very harsh reality to accept and can create anxiety for some people. Anxiety is best described as a feeling of uneasiness, typically about things that have not yet happened or of something where the outcome is not certain. Can you think of any situation in life where the outcome is uncertain? I am pretty sure you can. Life offers us many of those but I would like to offer you some helpful ways to manage your anxiety so that you can have more peace in your life. I think we can all use a little more of that.
While anxiety is often described as an emotion, it is also experienced physically. When the body goes in to fight-or-flight mode, otherwise known as anxiety, breathing can become shallow and rapid. Deep breathing helps to reverse that and sends messages to the brain that help to calm the body. Regular practice of this helps the body respond more efficiently in the future. Try taking long deep breaths multiple times until you feel yourself returning to a state of calmness. You don’t want to hold your breath too long to where you’re uncomfortable but it should be longer than a normal breath.
Imagery is also a great way to manage anxiety effectively. Think of some places or things that you truly enjoy. Think hard and try to imagine what it’s like, what it feels like, what it looks like, etc. Paint a picture in your mind by using all five of your senses. Think of as many details as possible about your experience. The brain does an awesome job of creating emotional reactions based solely on thoughts. It’s best to do this in a quiet space where you can eliminate any noise or distractions and have some time to think quietly.
Although feeling anxious may seem like it will last an eternity, it won’t last forever. Memories often serve as triggers and the brain makes associations that are long lasting. It’s helpful to remind yourself that the feeling is just a feeling and it’s temporary. Even though the memory makes you feel upset, it’s not actually happening again right now. Just because it feels bad, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is bad. Your feelings are just a reaction to your thoughts. Ask yourself, “has something bad happened or am I fearful about what may happen in the future?”
Your approach to how you deal with anxiety is much similar to how you would deal with a stray cat that that kept coming around. If you want to get rid of it you, you don’t feed it or encourage it to hang around. If you feed it and give it what it wants, it will continue to come back. Think about how you currently manage your anxiety and identify the things that work well for you as well as what increases your anxiety. Be intentional about avoiding (if you can) the things that worsen your anxiety. If you are unable to avoid it then try using these approaches to minimize and better control your anxiety. Remember, you might not be able to control your circumstances but you can learn how to control your reactions and you can choose your attitude about it. Regain your sense of control today by changing your expectations and attitude to stressful situations.