Dealing With Anxiety: 5 Quick Ways To Cope With Anxiety
Climbing up that stage to give my valedictory speech has to be the scariest moment of my life. I can still remember how tense I was and how sweaty my palms were. For some reason, I felt so pressured to give an Oscar-winning speech. Thinking about this now, this was subtly outrageous. I guess that was just my craze for perfection speaking anyway, muffled up in my dealing with anxiety.
And with over a thousand eyes glued on me, I somehow just couldn’t get my lips to move right there on that stage. I was stage-frozen. And being so young at the time, I had no idea the magnitude of what I was experiencing nor how to deal with this anxiety.
Anxiety Cripples You
This, as I later got to find, was just a tiny piece of the bigger picture. As I grew older, I realized I had a certain fear for human interaction. I was so scared of being seen. I feared making my own points or genuinely sharing from my own well of knowledge. Basically, because I didn’t want a joke to be made out of me.
But the irony was I actually did crave attention. I wanted to be in the spotlight too, even for just a split second. Seeing people climb upstage and give speeches with grace always caused my heart to burn. I wanted this too. But you see, this is what anxiety does to you. It goes as far as crippling you, making you watch those things you really want for yourself slide right past you.
I was so scared about my future (but ain’t we all a little scared about this). I was one of those people that always analyzed a million ways one thing could go wrong even though it does show promise. It took a while but I did get to realize that fear is in fact a necessary tool for growth. And if anything, anxiety shouldn’t be what keeps you trapped in the box.
Uncertainty – Friend or Foe?
A couple of situations and experiences are known to cause anxiety. The most predominant however is uncertainty. Anxiety almost always moves as a result of uncertainties. With every step we’re gonna take – especially those relatively new steps, there’s always gonna be a question of “where would this lead me?”, “what if I don’t get the results that I want from this?”, “is this just gonna be a waste of time and resources?”.
Our minds might even go as far as drawing up conclusions for us saying “people would think you’re stupid if you do this”, “you’ll only end up embarrassing yourself and looking like a clown”, “you can’t hold eye contact with your mum, why do you even think you can give this presentation?”
But deep down, I believe we know the answers to these apparent “mind-boxing” questions. Regardless of how much we like to shy away from this, the reality is we were never always meant to know the outcome of certain actions that we’re gonna take, especially when they’re relatively new actions to us. Because uncertainty is in fact the dominating characteristic of new things.
With a little help from my teachers, I got back down that stage. But you see, I never did get a chance to find out how well or poorly I would have given that speech. I guess this is the regret every one of us that let our anxiety rule us always has to face.
5 Quick Ways To Cope With Anxiety
It took a while but I finally got around to dealing with my anxiety. But this wasn’t something that happened overnight. When dealing with anxiety, it always helps to bear in mind that anxiety may always present itself in your daily life because it’s basically part of our brain’s response to perceived danger — even if that danger isn’t real.
However, your response to this anxiety is what determines how well you can function in your day-to-day activities. When anxiety gets to a point where it inhibits your productivity, then it becomes a major concern.
In this post, I put together five practical ways that would help you in dealing with anxiety.
Know your triggers
Everyone has different anxiety triggers. Stepping into a dark room, your first day at a new job, meeting your partner’s family, driving or traveling, giving a speech or a presentation in front of a lot of people, caffeine, some chronic illness, being in small spaces, proximity/intimacy, depression, animals, are all sorts of things that could trigger the fear emotion in us.
Identifying these triggers is one of the most important steps to dealing with and managing anxiety. This however calls for a level of self-awareness. To do this, you may need to take some time out and carry out self-reflection, taking a deep dive inward, while being brutally honest. In other extreme cases, you make need extra support either through therapy or with friends, to help you unravel those deep layers of yourself.
When you do figure out your anxiety trigger, it helps to then limit your exposure as much as you can. There would however always be stress and anxiety triggers that we will not have control over. In such situations, using the other coping techniques listed in this post may help.
Question your thought pattern
Generating worrisome thoughts is the brain’s way of protecting us from potential threats. However, this too could backfire and result in negative impacts. Negative thoughts can take root in your mind and distort the severity of situations.
Challenging your fears, checking if they’re really true and not just excuses your mind made up, and countering those limiting thought patterns and belief systems is one sure way to take back control of your anxiety state.
Write down your thoughts
Writing down what’s making you anxious gets it out of your head and can make it less daunting. When you’ve been able to properly articulate the situation, and maybe given a name to it too, you’ll be surprised by the sense of control you’ll begin to feel.
Journaling could prove helpful here. Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious and look for a recurring pattern. Focus on channeling all of those anxious energies on paper, letting it all out of your system.
Keep your body and mind healthy
Exercising regularly, eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol and caffeine, practicing yoga, mindful meditation, listening to music, taking a walk, staying connected to people who care about you are great ways to stave off anxiety.
Sometimes, the best way to stop anxious thoughts is to walk away from the situation. Taking some time to focus on your body and not your mind may help relieve your anxiety. Practicing focused, deep breathing also helps.
Try breathing in for 4 counts and breathing out for 4 counts for 5 minutes total. By evening out your breath, you’ll slow your heart rate which should help calm you down. When done regularly, this can eventually help you train your brain to dismiss anxious thoughts when they arise.
Your best is Good Enough
Sometimes, it is not that we lack the ability to take on something. It is the fear that we won’t come back with perfect results that cripple us. In cases like this, instead of aiming for perfection (which isn’t always possible), be proud of however close you get. By all means, give yourself margins for errors.
While there are settings in which the “all-or-nothing” mindset is warranted, it helps to note that many of our daily endeavors do not carry the same level of responsibility. Celebrate yourself for how hard you try and how much effort you put in. With practice and consistency, perfection would come knocking on your doors.
Welcome humor! Laugh every now and then, living each day of your life one step at a time.
Uncertainties would always present themselves as we go on about our lives. But sometimes, the desire for whatever it is that you want for yourself has to speak louder than any anxiety ever can. It helps to then shift the attention from “I would only end up making a fool of myself” to “I am so driven to see ‘so and so’ happen in my life that I’m willing to do the necessary work in spite of all the fear and anxiety”. After all, ain’t this part of the baby steps to how legacies are made?
You may want to consider seeing a professional for help if you notice your anxiety is going way over the roof. Therapy and medication are other available options. Once you find what treatment works best for you, life should be a lot more enjoyable and a lot less daunting.