No wonder we're anxious these days. Stories of disasters, terrorism, and psychopaths flood the nightly news. Add these to normal life issues, illness, financial stress, and family troubles, and the triggers for anxiety and panic attacks abound.
Anxiety is a continuous stream of negative thoughts that circulate in your mind. Because it's not focused on solving problems, worry drains and wastes your energy and scatters your thinking. However, if you can channel that mental energy to do something productive, solve a problem or make a decision, you'll feel less anxious. Mental health professionals can assist you during strenuous times.
Letting go and not trying to control everything at once can make many situations easier to manage. Rather than fight what's going on, or try to run from problems, make a decision, and learn from it. You'll actually gain more real control by letting go of obsessive worry and focusing on what you can do.
Letting go in this way is an internal, private process. You don't need to let anyone else know you're doing it. Use the suggestions below to take charge of your negative thoughts (one thing that is within your control) and turn them around. You'll be happier when you let go of the things you can't control, such as other people, life's events, loss and disappointment.
To stop negative thinking, do a reality check. Are you frightening yourself with imagined worse-case scenarios? Instead of worrying about the past or the future, focus on what's true now. Stick to the facts, and tell the truth to yourself, the whole truth, not just the negative parts.
To face reality, and overcoming anxiety, you must allow yourself to feel your feelings. Denying the truth is a way to avoid your feelings; however, when you accept the truth and your feelings about it, you will feel less anxious.
Common types of anxiety
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: The most common form of anxiety. It includes excessive worrying about daily life including health, money and family.
Social Anxiety Disorder: A constant fear of being criticized and judged by others.
Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD): Being exposed to a traumatic life experience, such as a death in the family, sexual or physical assault, or witnessing a crime.
Panic Attacks: Strong emotional and physical reactions that occur even though there is no apparent threat.
Panic Disorder: Feeling like you are losing control for no apparent reason and a feeling of not being able to escape or get help.
Signs & symptoms of anxiety
Follow these steps to help lessen your worry and anxiety:
Learn to recognize the signs of your own anxiety.
If you can't sleep, or you worry a lot or obsess about negative possibilities, or you're unusually irritable or needy, you are probably anxious, and you need to learn how manage your thoughts.
Give yourself a chance to express your fear.
When you're facing loss, problems, or unwanted changes you can't control, you will have some resistance and objections. Grant yourself time to complain and be unhappy about the situation.
Express as many of the negative feelings and thoughts as possible, either verbally or on paper. However, if your fear is overwhelming, and you are having debilitating anxiety attacks, then a therapist can help you with this part.
List and evaluate your fears.
Make a list of your fears and think about them constructively. Is there anything that you can do about your fears? Have you made all the choices you can? Are you thinking clearly about the problem? Are you angry at anyone specifically? Are you resisting unnecessarily? If you have a choice, do you still want to change things? If you don't have a choice, can you see some alternatives? Do your options look different to you now?
Discuss the problem with yourself as constructively as you would with another friend.
Brainstorm for ideas, realistic or even silly, about what you could do to make things better.
Review and decide.
Once you've expressed your anger and disappointment, evaluated your feelings, brainstormed ideas and checked the facts, you will feel much more in charge of yourself and your situation. Review what you've discovered and make some decisions.
Sell yourself on a positive outcome.
Think of all the possible positive outcomes of the changes you're making and what a valuable lesson you will learn.
Arthur H. Belmont, LMFT
has over 20 years of experience working with children, teens and adults who are struggling with relational, emotional or behavioral issues.