It can be easy to let anxiety get in the way of your ability to handle difficult situations. Whether you suffer from general anxiety or a related mood disorder, or you are just nervous or apprehensive about how to handle a difficult, foreign or unfamiliar situation, anxiety can have a tendency to get the best of your nerves, health, and emotional wellbeing. When you are suffering from anxiety it is important to know how to work through the feelings. Anxiety can be an overwhelming feeling. If you give it power, you will lose control of yourself, your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Fortunately, there is a way to prevent your anxiety from getting the best of you. If you are struggling with confronting a difficult situation, or often find yourself feeling anxious or uncomfortable under uncomfortable circumstances, follow these steps. They will help you learn how to maintain control of your feelings and anxiety, so it does not control you.
Step 1: Understand Your Anxiety
The first step in taking control over your anxiety is to understand your anxiety. Your anxiety is not a spontaneous feeling that you sometimes feel for no reason. Each time you feel anxiety there is a reason for it. Sometimes it can be easier to anticipate than others, but there are key points you should be aware of so you can be prepared for each stressful or anxiety-provoking situation. Consider the following as you gain a better understanding about your anxiety:
Know Your Triggers
Each time you feel anxiety it is because it was triggered by something. Each person is different, so different things will affect people in different ways. There are many different types of situations that can trigger anxiety, like:
- Prolonged stress
- Uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or upsetting situations
- Brain chemistry
- Seasons and the weather
- Workload or amount of responsibilities one needs to keep up with on a daily or weekly basis
- Mental illness
- Chronic illness or medical conditions
- Surprises or unexpected situations and issues
- Social situations
These are just a few common examples of many different situations that can cause anxiety in a person. If you are able to understand what triggers your anxiety, you will be able to prepare for the anxious feelings and anticipate when you will begin to feel symptoms.
Know Your Symptoms
Just like how everyone has different triggers for anxiety, everyone experiences anxiety differently. There are many different symptoms a person can experience. However, not everyone will experience anxiety the same way or with the same intensity. There are several different symptoms for anxiety, including:
- Muscle tension
- Racing thoughts
- Depressed mood
- Mood swings
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Crying spells
- Avoidance of uncomfortable situations
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Nightmares and night terrors
- Panic attacks or anxiety attacks
Each of these symptoms is uncomfortable and difficult to cope with, but they can be warning signs that your anxiety is being triggered or is spiking. Being mindful of these symptoms can help you understand why you are anxious.
Step 2: Understand Why You Are Anxious
Understanding why you are anxious is a matter of being aware of yourself and the environment around you. If you remain in tune with how you feel and how you are affected by certain situations, you will be able to understand when and how to remain aware of your environment to prevent your anxiety from building. The potential reasons why a person is feeling anxious is limitless, but there are common themes for anxiety. Common reasons why people feel anxious include:
- Relationship issues
- Stress at work or school
- Unresolved feelings, concerns, or issues
- A history of trauma or abuse
- Grief and loss
- Adjustment to difficult situations (a change in environment or family dynamic, unexpected medical or mental health issues, etc.)
- Fear or anticipation about a difficult situation
- Hormonal or neurochemical imbalances
These are just a few of the many different situations that can cause anxiety for people. It is important to understand why you are feeling anxious so you will know which coping strategies to engage in order to cope with the stress, lessen the intensity of the symptoms, and remain in control of your thoughts, mind, body and behavior.
Step 3: Know Your Coping Strategies
Knowing your triggers, symptoms, and situations for stress is half the battle. Once you have identified and learned to understand each of these elements, it is important to learn how to cope with them. This way, you will be sure they cannot cause your anxiety to get so strong that you cannot cope with it. There are many different coping strategies you can learn to alleviate stress. Four effective ways to learn how to manage stress are to learn deep breathing techniques, learn how to rationalize through those racing negative and anxious thoughts, knowing how to stay focused on the present moment, and keep a positive attitude despite your anxious symptoms.
Deep breathing is a pivotal skill to learn when learning how to cope with your anxiety. It is important to know how to breathe through your anxiety because when people’s breathing patterns change when they get anxious. This prevents sufficient oxygen levels from reaching the brain and body, which results in the symptoms that are often experienced. If you can learn how to keep your breathing level and calm, you will be able to prevent your anxiety from getting too extreme.
A great way to use deep breathing when you are anxious is to take deep breaths before or right as you begin feeling symptoms. Taking deep breaths will bring oxygen to the muscles, preventing cramping and muscle tension. It will also bring oxygen to the brain, which will create a euphoric, relaxed feeling that will lessen the intensity of the other symptoms. Deep breathing is easy and can be done anywhere, which is why it is such a valuable coping skill to learn.
The best way to start practicing deep breathing is to simply start with 10-second breaths. To practice 10-second breaths, all you need to do is breathe in for 10 seconds through the nose, hold for 3 seconds, and exhale through the mouth for 10 seconds. Repeat this 4-6 times and notice the calm relaxed feeling you have as your anxiety diminishes.
Anxiety is an emotion, which by definition means it is irrational. Feeling anxiety causes irrational thoughts, and those irrational thoughts can lead to more intense symptoms and irrational behavior. It can be easy to let these thoughts, feelings, and behavior take control, but if you are able to reason with those thoughts that are caused by anxiety, you will be able to prevent them from causing your anxiety to spike and affect the way in which you are behaving, and feeling.
Keeping Focused On The Present
Anxiety has a tendency to cause people to get wrapped up in racing thoughts, negative feelings, and fears about a given situation. These reactions cause a person to get a bit wound up in their own minds, preventing them from being able to stay grounded and aware of what is going on in the present moment. Anxiety can also cause people to think and behave irrationally, as similar yet unrelated issues enter their minds due to high stress and apprehension.
When you begin to feel your anxiety getting more intense, it is important to know how to separate your racing thoughts, emotions, and impulses to remain aware of the objective situation at hand, not your racing negative thoughts or interpretations of the small details. It helps to keep in mind the bigger picture, and focus on finding resolution for an issue, rather than allowing your anxiety take the reins and lead you to behave irrationally or impulsively.
Keep A Positive Attitude
It can be difficult to learn, but keeping a positive attitude despite the anxiety you are feeling can help a great deal in preventing your anxiety from taking control of your behavior. When people are anxious, they tend to focus on the negative, and focusing on the negative fuels more negativity and prevents a person from being able to rationalize and stay focused on the present moment. However, if you are able to stay positive, rational, and levelheaded, you are less likely to act out through anxiety, jump to conclusions, or expect the worst to happen.
An effective way to practice positivity is to develop and utilize a mantra. A mantra is a term used in the practice of Yoga. It is a phrase, saying, or sentence that a person repeats to maintain a positive, neutral, and rational perspective on difficult situations that may cause feelings of anxiety and discomfort. Mantras have proven to be effective for those who struggle with anxiety because they serve as a reminder that even though the situation at hand is difficult, you are strong enough to get through it. It also reminds you to utilize your coping strategies to prevent your anxiety from taking control.