Dealing with my anxiety

Photo on 2013-10-16 at 13.33 #5

Dealing with my anxiety

I never really acknowledged my anxiety for many years. I always felt I was more depressed than anxious but now I realise that anxiety has been a constant companion by my side. I have just learned strategies to help get me through.

We all feel anxious at times and this is healthy. It is the body’s way of preparing us for a threat. The problem is that in modern day living, the threat won’t usually kill us yet the body reacts the same way it would if there was a real danger to us. Psychologists say that this is down to evolution and the fact that the ‘old brain’ – the amygdala and the hypothalamus still activate in the same way that they would have thousands of years ago when faced with a hungry lion, for example. So, nowadays, in modern living, we can be triggered by our body’s natural reactions and interpret this as real danger. Understanding that even though our bodies are preparing us for a fight/fight or freeze response does not necessarily mean we are in immediate danger has helped me to separate physical symptoms from any real threat or danger. Well, it’s a start at least!

The other strategy I try to use is to ask myself whether my worry is a real worry or a hypothetical worry (a “what if” type worry). If it is a hypothetical worry, I try to dismiss it and distract myself with something else. I used to believe that worrying would somehow keep me safe but I have since challenged the idea that worry is a good thing. I can think if many times when I have worried and it has had not effect on the outcome. One of my favourite quotes is: “Worry is like a rocking chair, it will give you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere”. I think this is very true. I see worry as mental torture now and although I cannot stop the thoughts coming, I am better at dismissing them and not focusing on them or giving them any attention. Think of it this way – you can’t control who knocks at your door but you can choose how long you wish to entertain them for. Your thoughts can be seen in the same way.

I also remind myself that thoughts are not facts – they are just my perceptions of reality, not necessarily the actual reality out there.

Anxiety comes and goes in my life. It has been debilitating at times but I have learned that the only way to reduce anxiety is to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone by confronting my fears. Anxiety is caused by overestimating the threat and underestimating our ability to cope. I talk to myself more positively and tell myself that I will find a way through, no matter way. I have to repeat affirmations to myself regularly but they do help me.

Anxiety can be managed, I know because I have done it. I am still a work in progress though as life is naturally ‘up and down’ and anxiety always seems to hover nearby. Having said that, I do feel I am less anxious than I used to be and I keep working at it and resisting it. You can too!

Mandy X