October 1, 2009
Be the Boss: Manage and Use Your Anxiety and Worry
You will get stronger and feel better every day, when you learn to appreciate the role of anxiety and worry, and increase your confidence by taking action and taking a positive perspective.
What Is Anxiety?
Here, we are talking about normal or very troublesome nervousness, tension, and worry. (We are not talking about panic attacks or panic disorder, anxiety from traumatic events, or obsessive-compulsive disorder—ocd). We can define anxiety as feeling apprehensive that something bad or unpleasant could happen to us or our loved ones, and that we will not be able to handle it. This covers a lot of territory, and so, some big highlights will be presented here.
Medication, Self-Help, and Therapy
As stated before, it’s a big big mistake to think that medication alone can “fix” your mood. Medication relieves symptoms. Medication has its place. But it does not get to the roots of most kinds of anxiety. Our mood is hugely affected by our choices, our self-talk, and the people with whom we associate.
Anyone who gets more than mildly anxious needs to use self-help resources. Anyone who has anxiety on a regular basis needs to work with a therapist. Good therapy will bring lasting improvement, not just symptom relief.
Find Out What Your Anxiety Means
All emotions serve a purpose. First, your job is to find out what your anxiety or worry is telling you. For instance, is it telling you that you need to take things less seriously, that you need to boost your self-image or self-confidence, that you need to get used to doing certain things, or that you are not accepting what you can’t control? You can then find a few strategies that will help you do what you need to do. Following are some important ones.
Be More Realistic
Anxiety often arises when we overestimate the probability of an unpleasant event. You ask, What is the realistic likelihood that something bad will happen? You use your left brain and logically determine the real evidence for the likelihood. When you are anxious, the likelihood seems high (50% or more). When you are calm and reasonable, the likelihood often appears lower, sometimes much lower. Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had a lot of trouble in my life, most of which never happened.”
You Can Deal With It
Sometimes bad things do happen, and once in a while the realistic likelihood of something bad happening is actually high (though rarely certain). You don’t hide your head in the sand. You do what you can by planning to deal with it. Sometimes coping can be fairly easy; other times, it can take a lot of courage.
We tend to catastrophize about minor or moderate inconveniences and troubles.
But you can only do what you can do, so you make a plan. Much of the time, a
good plan can give you confidence because a good plan is the opposite of nervous wheel-spinning.
Here are some more big ticket ways to manage and use your anxiety:
- Exposure. Overall, this may be the most powerful method to decrease anxiety. You “expose” yourself to the what you are worried about. For instance, you give the speech, make an appointment to see your doctor, drive over the bridge, assertively express what you want. The Law of Exposure says: The More Your Do, the Easier It Gets.
- Focus on What You Want instead of what you don’t want. Picture the outcome, and what it’s going to get you. This energizes you.
- Exercise and Relaxation. Regular exercise and relaxation skills strengthen your mind and body to worry less and accomplish more.
- Positive Attitude is so powerful. Turn your mind to being more optimistic, expecting good results, telling yourself encouraging and supportive things. This includes doing what you can, and accepting the outcome.
- Being Present. Being attentively conscious of the present moment is a powerful way to manage all emotion and feel good, and it needs daily practice. A course in meditation and breathing is the best way to get the most from this wonderful practice.
Here are some absolutely beneficial things you can do, frequently, to decrease your anxiety, and to increase your sense of confidence and control:
1st Do something that you are or have been avoiding. Do this every day. This is probably the single most important thing you can do to manage your anxiety.
2nd Be a good coach to yourself, and tell yourself, “I can deal with this. It’s probably not as difficult as I imagine.” Always give yourself credit for the effort
3rd Picture yourself succeeding at something that you’ve wanted to do, but have been anxious about up to now. Use vivid imagery, making your “movie,” and play it with emotion, feeling the good feelings as if it were actually happening.