|Millions of Americans struggle with diagnosable anxiety disorders. However, the feelings of worry, nervousness, and fear that characterize anxiety occur normally in nearly all individuals.
*Note: For those suffering with diagnosable or severe anxiety disorders, coping with stress can be a complex process that requires professional help. If you or someone you know is experiencing excessive or compulsive anxiety symptoms, see below for treatment options.
Say them out loud or write them down.
What is it exactly that you are worried about or afraid of? When we are experiencing anxiety, it can be difficult to clearly identify the root of our racing heartbeat and overwhelming dread. Simplify that fear in a clear sentence.
Take notice of your physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes. Is your face flushed? Do you feel panic? Are you avoiding people and places? Acknowledge these symptoms and write them in a journal.
For some merely stating the reason for their anxiety may be enough for them to realize that they have overreacted. For others, it creates a specific point to work from and improve upon.
We’ll use the simple example of getting a shot. Maybe you feel overwhelming dread going to a doctor to receive a vaccination. What is it specifically that you are afraid of? The needle? The pain? Then go to the next step.
Once you have identified what is causing your anxiety, take a step away from the stressor and begin to analyze it. Is there concrete information that supports your worries? Can you find facts that reject them?
So, let’s fact check our vaccination scenario.
Separate your anxiety preceding an event from the event itself. Have you gotten a shot before? If so, what has the outcome been? If your experiences are limited to a slight pinch and temporary soreness, do you have any reason to believe that this time will be different?
In many cases, we find that the fear we experience before an event is worse than the event itself. Ask yourself: “Was the vaccination problematic for me, or was it the car ride there when I was thinking about it?”
#3: Get back to the present.
When we experience anxiety, our feelings about something that has not yet happened consume us. Inversely, it may cause us to dwell on events in the past. In both cases, we are not being present.
Being mindful and aware of our surroundings and present experiences can help to keep us from wandering to a place of dread or regret.
Take a series of deep breaths and meditate. Smartphone applications such as Calm can also provide relaxing exercises and steps in moments of anxiety.
On your way to the doctor, put on music and sing along. Take notice of the places you drive by and the people you see. Be attentive to traffic signs and other vehicles. Take control of what you can within this moment and let the rest go.