Anxiety is described as an intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations, so many of us can experience it. There’s so many coping strategies we can use to reduce anxiety, but not all can help you.
The coping strategies that a lot of people turn to when feeling anxious can actually be doing more harm than good. They include:
1. Running away from it
Avoiding situations that cause anxiety only makes the fear of feeling that way intensify.
Instead: learn to overcome situations, despite the anxious feelings. Conquering such situations lays down a solid idea that it is possible to do what you’re supposed to even if you experience all the sensations of anxiety. You’ll actually feel much braver, because you know that something you did before worked.
2. Denying it.
Just because you say you don’t feel it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Over time, it will come out and you may just end up scaring the people around you. Denying it will prevent you from getting the help you need.
Instead: Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice where in your body you are feeling the most anxiety. Pay attention to what is happening to you physically. Once you become aware of your anxiety, try telling yourself: “It’s okay. I’m just feeling anxious right now;” or “I’m having an anxious day today;” or “It’s okay for me to be anxious.” You actually make some ‘psychological’ space for your anxious feelings to change. Try to notice where in your body you’re feeling anxious. It might be ‘butterflies’ in your stomach, tightness in your chest, or a feeling of restlessness. The most common reaction is to try to stop feeling this way. However, the more you try to ignore or pretend that you aren’t feeling anxious, the more the anxiety persists.
3. Acknowledging it and feeling sorry for it.
Anxiety is not really something to apologise for; it’s the problem of other people if they do not understand.
Instead: Don’t apologise for it, because that’s just going to make you feel worse. Anxiety is something that’s hard to control; that’s why a lot of people turn to professional help.
4. Thinking about it too much.
Thinking of all the potential reasons why you’re feeling the way you do and connecting every situation to these reasons will just make you suffer more and increase your worry and anxiety.
Instead: When you find yourself indulging in exaggerated thoughts, take a step back and chill, and then very casually put your thoughts on trial to challenge their accuracy and evidence that shows it’s true. If you can’t come up with any accurate answer, it only means one thing: You have to stop because only the future can reveal the answers, not you.
5. Predicting how anxiety will occur in the future.
Some people say they do this to be prepared, but basically all they do is scare themselves even more. As such, they avoid all sorts of situations. Doing this can make your world so much smaller—you’re allowing anxiety to rule your life.
Instead: Make friends with your anxiety. Don’t fight it. When you don’t fight against your anxiety, it actually becomes more manageable. Notice what you’re telling yourself: “Oh no! Not this again. What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t it just go away? If I don’t do something about it quickly, it is just going to get worse…” It is amazing how many negative messages your brain sends you in the space of a minute.