General anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders. And so few people understand that the persistent worry they experience day-to-day can cross over into a mental illness if it’s not managed properly. As a matter of fact, most people don’t even know exactly what anxiety is. They just know the feeling without actually being able to put a name to it.
So, What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a long-lasting sense of restlessness. A feeling of uneasiness that can affect your mood, appetite, and even your sleep patterns. There are several types of anxieties, such as social anxiety, phobias (fear of flying, animals, etc.), or PTSD.
Anxiety has a way of making you obsess over things and think about the worst-case scenario over and over, for days, if not weeks at a time. Anxiety can have you obsessing whether something you said weeks ago in an office meeting offended someone or being unnecessarily overprotective of your loved ones.
Not everyone who experiences anxiety has an anxiety disorder, per se. Sometimes, anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. But if your anxiety is persistently causing problems in your life, you may have generalized anxiety, which is a mental disorder. If you think you may have generalized anxiety, see a mental health professional ASAP.
Anxiety is unbearable. The good news is that it’s one of the mental illnesses that can be managed and even cured if treated properly.
Here are some tips to manage anxiety:
1. Locate the source of your anxious thoughts: No doubt, this is easier said than done, but you can do it! Next time you’re feeling anxious about something, ask yourself what is it that I’m really worried about? Try to pinpoint the underlying issue of the anxiety.
Using the example I mentioned earlier, if you find yourself worrying about something you said in the office meeting, ask yourself, what is it about this that is bothering me? Is it that my co-workers might think I’m stupid? Or is it that I’m insecure about my own personality traits? Whatever the issue may be, try to figure out the root cause of it. Often, you will realize that when stripped down to the root cause, the things that make you anxious are usually ridiculous.
2. Ask yourself if you can live with the worst-case scenario, and is it something you will be able to cope with?: A lot of the time, anxiety will go away once you stop and ask yourself what is the absolute worst-case scenario is in this situation? In other words, ask yourself what the worst thing that can happen is. Often, you will realize that you can handle the worst-case scenario if it were ever actually to happen.
3. Is there evidence to support your anxious thoughts? When your anxious, it’s easy to feel like your anxious thoughts are credible. The truth is anxiety has a way of making your fears and worries seem very likely to happen. Investigating how much evidence supports your anxiety is a good way to put your thoughts in perspective and reduce your anxiety.
For example, suppose you have a fear of flying because you’re afraid of a potential plane crash. Given that there is like a 1 in 20 million chance of you being in a plane crash, it’s safe to say that it’s unlikely to happen. A lot of the time, looking at the evidence that supports and contradicts your anxious thoughts (what I like to call putting the thought on trial) can stop anxiety in its tracks.
4. Distance yourself from the problem. You’re probably thinking distancing myself from the problem sounds a lot like denial. But that’s not what I mean at all. By “distancing,” I mean looking at the problem as if you were an outside observer of the situation that is causing your anxiety or seeing it from someone else’s point of view.
So, for example, let’s say you recently did an interview for a job, and you’re anxious because it has been three weeks and you still haven’t gotten a call back yet. And all sorts of anxious thoughts are running through your mind. What if talked too much? Maybe I’m not qualified for the position after all. I’m just not cut out for that type of job.
Stop tormenting yourself and ask what if (insert someone you care about) were having this problem? What advice would I give them? Anxiety has a way of making you think in unrealistically negative ways. So sometimes looking at the situation as if it were someone else will help you put the situation in its proper context.
5. Give Yourself Permission to be Anxious: Instead of trying to fight the anxiety, which is usually an uphill battle. Don’t resist the fact that you’re anxious. Acknowledge your anxiety, remind yourself that the anxiety, just like most problems, too, shall pass. Often we give ourselves more anxiety by trying everything under the sun to get rid of it. In those situations, what we end up doing is giving it more attention than it deserves. Sometimes, the best strategy for eliminating anxiety is just to ignore it!
At the end of the day, anxiety is no joke. And if it seems like you are constantly worrying about things, always on edge or losing sleep, you owe it to yourself to seek help from a trained mental health professional. There is no shame in seeking help!