Categories
Relieve Anxiety

How To Master Anxiety And Worry

JournalDo you ever worry beyond reason?  Does your mind tend to overestimate the risks of life and underestimate the powers and resources you have  to handle those risks?  Do you feel a subtle, yet persistent, sense of anxiety that runs like an undercurrent just beneath your  conscious awareness?

If so, you’re not alone. Most of us have some of that  going on. Before we get into how to master anxiety and worry, let’s start with some simple definitions. Anxiety is a feeling state of fear, trepidation, or being overly-concerned.  Worry is the fretful thinking we do when we feel anxious.

Now, a little anxiety and worry can be helpful. Being a bit anxious or worried may inspire you to study for a  test, learn a presentation that you have for work, or  prepare well for a big event in your life. Anxiety’s  most productive function is to prepare you for  challenges or dangers that you may have to face.

For example, if you are driving on a snowy day, a little anxiousness may keep you tuned into driving carefully and paying close attention to what is  happening around you.

However, anxiety is a problem when it gets triggered  often, is overwhelming, or you can’t let it go. This  can cause a chronic state of stress in your body that  may lead to difficulty sleeping, exhaustion,  irritability, and trouble focusing on what you have to  do. It can lead to a downward spiral that is hard to  pull yourself out of.

Anxiety can also be a persistent, low-level undercurrent that keeps you from feeling comfortable, confident, happy, and secure in your life. This type of anxiety may be harder to spot, but it is no less important, because it can keep you from living your life to the fullest. When you are anxious and worried you may feel that just getting through the day is
achievement enough.

So, let’s look at the basic dynamics of anxiety and  worry, then, we’ll explore an effective strategy for  working through them. There are two sides to the anxiety and worry equation:

1. Overstating a possible challenge or danger and the likelihood that it will happen.

2. Understating your own abilities and resources to handle that challenge or danger.

In other words, when you feel anxious you are looking at what might happen and seeing it as hugely dangerous and highly likely to happen. At the same time, you are feeling that your talents, skills, and resources are small, inadequate, and not up to the challenge that you face. What you are facing looks like a huge “catastrophe” and what you have to fend it off feels
like a cap gun.

Unless you take steps to curb your anxiety and manage your worry, it can take you into a downward spiral that can be difficult to get out of. So what steps can you take before that happens? And what can you do to pull yourself out of it if it does happen?

One great strategy is to keep a Mastering Anxiety  Journal where you record moments of anxiety and worry.  Awareness is the first and most essential step to  anything you want to change. It enables you to identify  anxiety-worry as soon as it arises, so you can insert a mental pause into your reaction and do something about  it. Here’s a way to do that:

Whenever you feel anxiety and worry, pause, take a break from what you are doing, practice slow deep breathing to calm yourself, and, then, take a few moments to record the following elements:

1. Rate the intensity of your feeling from 0-10 (10 being extremely anxious)

2. Make note of what triggered your anxious feeling.  What happened right before you felt this way?

3. Make note of the worry thoughts that accompany this feeling.

4. Make note of any physical symptoms such as muscle tightness, irritability, sweating, confusion, difficulty sleeping and so on.

5. Make note of any worry behaviors such as excessive checking to make things are O.K. or extreme compensations such as showing up an hour early for an event.

6. Once you’ve written those things down. Assess how likely it is that what you are worried about will actually happen. If it did happen, what could you do about it? What actions could you take? What is a more realistic and helpful way to think about the situation?

Shining the light of awareness on anxiety in this way helps to quickly dissolve it.

After going through that process, you are much more conscious of the dynamics behind your anxiety-worry reaction. You have faced possible outcomes directly and you have imagined what you can do no matter what happens.

You’ll likely revise your assessment of what could happen so that you see things less dramatically, less catastrophically. You’ll likely revise your sense of your own abilities and resources more favorably.

With those two moves, you’ve shifted the equation so you feel more up to the challenges you might face.  You’ll likely feel much more confident and empowered.

Enjoy your practice!

Kevin Schoeninger

Categories
Relieve Anxiety

The Secret To Overcoming Worry

balanceDo you ever find yourself worrying about what might happen? Do you imagine the worst and replay it over and over in your mind? If so, rest assured you are human, and it is natural to do that sometimes! However, the worry habit can get in the way of enjoying life and accomplishing what is most important to you.

Let’s explore some good questions to ask that will assist you in overcoming worry, so you can be at your best and enjoy your life in the present moment. Let’s begin by asking, what’s behind your worry? Where are you coming from when you’re doing that?

For our purposes, we can describe worry as a mental behavior that is a reaction to anxiety and fear. Fear  is a reaction to your perception that something is threatening, dangerous, or painful. Anxiety is an  uneasiness about what might happen.

So, worry is a response to anxiety and fear. It’s a mental action that makes you feel like you are more  prepared for what might happen. Yet worry isn’t all that good a preparation for anything–is it? It tends  to put you in a mental-emotional place of stress. Because of that, it keeps you from being relaxed,  happy, present, and effective at what you are doing.

So, instead of worrying, what’s a better strategy for dealing with anxiety and fear?

To understand what could work better, let’s look at the positive function of anxiety and fear. These  feelings arise to alert us that we may need to take action. They tell us that we might need to do something in anticipation of some challenge that is facing us. This “alert to action” function can be  important.

For example, anxiety and fear about an upcoming test can motivate you to study. Anxiety and fear when  walking through a dark alley can keep you alert to protect yourself. Anxiety and fear about an upcoming work deadline can get you going on the work, spur you to gather resources and partners, and prepare you to do a great job. So, when fear and anxiety alert you to action you need to take right now, they can be very helpful.

However, when, instead of getting busy, you worry, that stalls the positive action process. Worry puts you ahead of yourself, out in the future, in a negative way. It tends to limit the positive actions you take now. It makes you do things like repeated checking to make sure things are O.K., which cycles into more stress and less efficiency.

You tend to imagine all sorts of “bad things” that haven’t actually happened yet and get locked into obsessing about them instead of doing what you need to do to really take care of a situation.

So, what’s a more productive strategy to use when you start to feel anxious or afraid?

First, pause what you are doing and take a few slow deep breaths. Feel the sensation of breathing inside your body. Each time you exhale, give a deep sigh and let go. See if you can relax a bit deeper with each out-breath. Once, you’ve taken the edge off your anxiousness, you’re ready for two important questions:

1. “Is there anything I need to be doing right now to prepare me for what I am afraid/anxious/worried about? Is there anything I can and need to do about that?”

If the answer is “yes” you can then ask yourself,

2a. “What is the best, most precise, and effective action I can take?”

Then, get busy doing that from a relaxed, proactive state of being.

2b. If the answer is “no,” you can enjoy your return to the present moment and get on with what is actually important for you to do right now. You can ask yourself “What is truly important for me to do right now? What is my top priority?”

If this sounds too simple, I encourage you to give it a try. This little process is something that you can get better and better at with practice.

One hint: The better you get at consciously relaxing yourself, the more accurate the answers you’ll receive to your questions.

Enjoy your practice!

Kevin Schoenginger