Stop Cheating on Your Happy Future With an Anxious Mind
-Stay faithful to your best self by putting anxiety in its place.
Contrary to widespread practice, worrying about what might happen doesn’t give you one inch of control over what does happen.
And yet, anxiety is on the rise.
Last week the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that all adults under age 65, even those without symptoms, should be regularly screened for anxiety. According to Lori Pbert, a task force member and psychologist-researcher at the University of Massachusetts’ Chan Medical School, anxiety disorders affect about 40% of U.S. women at some point in their lives and more than 1 in 4 men.
The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion of apprehension and bodily tension when people anticipate impending danger, catastrophe or misfortune. Anxiety is a normal and healthy emotion when facing uncertainty or something new. Left unchecked and unaddressed for too long and becomes a real problem.
How can you know if your anxiety is healthy or not? When it becomes unmanageable. Here’s an excellent article from Psychology Today on the signs and symptoms to determine if you need to seek professional help.
Address your anxiety now.
Anxiety makes us miserable if we don’t know how to handle it. It robs us of future success and happiness if we ignore it. Excessive worry overloads our minds, strains our emotional system and wears us out physically. It taxes our strength to the point that we can’t offer our best to others or ourselves.
If we look at anxiety as a process to work through for our benefit instead of a problem to fix, we can better manage it. We can use it to our advantage instead of letting it use us.
Remember, anxiety is normal. It helps us be alert and stay sharp when we need to. I’ve often experienced anxiety in my life, from a parent’s passing to divorce, career transitions and the challenges of being a single mother. A two-pronged approach of caring for myself and challenging the anxiety helped me get back on track.
Here are some tips that helped me kick anxiety out the door when it overstayed its welcome.
Physical: When anxious, breathing becomes faster and shallower. You can slow it down by counting to three on the in-breath and three on the out-breath. To alleviate body tension, try progressively relaxing each muscle group from your toes to your head by first tensing and then relaxing.
Focus: Anxiety monopolizes your attention on the imagined, dreaded future. Use your senses to bring yourself back to the present moment where everything is okay. Pause to name what you see around you, such as a chair, lamp or sunset. Name what you hear, such as the fan, wind or traffic. Name what you smell, taste or feel like perfume, saltiness or your feet on the floor.
Question your thoughts: What you think affects how you feel. You can debunk anxiety-producing thoughts by challenging their logic. Ask questions like; What’s the evidence that these thoughts are true? Am I substituting feelings for facts? Am I overestimating the danger? Am I underestimating my ability to handle it?
Take small brave steps: Completely avoiding something that makes you anxious gives you short-term relief but creates a long-term problem. Find ways to expose yourself in small doses to what makes you feel uneasy. When you do and the sky doesn’t fall, you’ll be able to cope better next time. It probably won’t be as bad as you expected if it doesn’t go well.
Schedule worry: Instead of resisting anxiety when it shows up, put it on the calendar for later. Promise yourself that you’ll mull over all the disastrous possibilities at the appointed time, even writing them down for clarity. Scheduling “anxiety time” gives you more control over how you experience it.
Talk it out: Get a second opinion on your worries, concerns or overthinking by sharing them with someone you feel comfortable with. Listen to their perspective on whether your fears are warranted or not. Also, let them share their experiences with anxiety. Knowing that others have gone through something similar pokes a hole in the theory that there’s something wrong or different about you.
The best anxiety buster of all time: Where trust is, anxiety cannot survive for long. Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. When you trust yourself or some deeper part of yourself, you create a shield against anxiety.
Trusting yourself doesn’t mean you have all the answers or can avoid every hardship. It does mean that you don’t betray your needs and safety, even when it comes to the small things, strengthening your confidence when anxiety comes along. You treat yourself with kindness and compassion rather than strive for perfection. You recognize that you can survive difficulties, even though you don’t like them or find them unpleasant.
Self-trust is the pledge and action of never giving up on yourself. Cultivate more trust by being aware of your thoughts and feelings, honestly expressing yourself and holding fast to your standards and values. Prioritize your needs and pursue what makes you happy without letting others discourage you.
When you base your life on this kind of reliability, truth, ability and strength, anxiety can’t survive. Don’t cheat on your happy future with an anxious mind. Stay faithful to your best self by putting anxiety in its place.
Work Your Inner Genius.
- How does your perspective shift when you say, “I have anxiety” instead of “I am anxious?” What difference does it make to see that anxiety is something you work through instead of who you are?
- What’s your level of self-trust? Is it distorted? What have you overcome that proves your reliability, ability or strength in the past?
- How long will you allow anxiety to seize control and rob you of your future happiness and success? What will you do and when will you do it?
Thanks for reading. Stay authentic. It matters.
Til next week…
Jo-Aynne Von Born, Leadership/Executive Coach
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