1. Get clarity around what's important to you and what your anxiety is working to protect.
Anxiety is a natural mode that our body "kicks in" to when it senses we are threatened or in danger. Anxiety becomes a problem for some people, however, when their body - originating from their mind - perceives threat when it really isn't there, OR is not there to the degree that they perceive. Getting clarity regarding what you perceive to be threatened is invaluable in taking steps to combat your anxiety. Are you fearful for your physical safety? Are you fearful of losing a loved one and their physical safety? Are you fearful of being hurt emotionally? Or some part of your identity being challenged that you cannot bear? Take time to reflect and articulate - to yourself, to your diary, to a trusted person - what you most hold dear and what you most fear losing.
2. How do you see yourself? And is your perspective correct?
Particularly for those people who suffer anxiety due to fears of internal threat and pain, how do you perceive yourself and your identity? Are you so fixated on the one part of you that you fear being hurt/damaged/threatened that you have lost sight of all the other qualities and characteristics that make up the person that you are? Ofcourse this step requires the willingness to make yourself vulnerable, because only in acknowledging your deepest thoughts and fears, can you truly identify and work on them. The work begins when you are then challenged to broaden your perspective of yourself. When your perspective is broadened, in the case of one aspect/part of you being hurt, the pain would be then be relative to 5% of your being, rather than 100%. Broadening your perspective of yourself decreases anxiety's prospects of impacting such a big part of you.
How much control do you perceive you have? Are you attempting to control external circumstances that are actually beyond your control? Some people who suffer anxiety are busy attempting to control circumstances, and it's as though they haven't stopped to think that the job they are trying to achieve is humanly impossible, which leads to the next point:
3. Be intentional about what you can and can't control; what you can and can't do.
The irony of anxiety is that to combat it, many people use the strategy of attempting to take control of more and more external circumstances, when in actual fact, acceptance of the need to relinquish control is the beginning of a road to recovery. Relinquishing the impossible dream of controlling all external circumstances, and focusing on taking control of how you think - about your safety AND about your anxiety AND about your identity - is the next invaluable key to taking steps on your road to recovery. You can't control all the external factors impacting your anxiety, but you can control how you think and how you respond to your anxiety.
4. Develop Emotional Intelligence regarding the emotions you experience or are afraid of.
Those people who experience anxiety, experience the array of negative emotions that coincide with anxiety. Negative emotions aren't pleasant. No one in their right mind would look forward to them. And in actual fact they can be downright painful. They can be so negative that some people with anxiety start "fearing the fear". And rightly so - to a point - because the sense of fear and overwhelm is not something to be celebrated and anticipated. The huge problem with this however, is that in fearing the fear, and fearing the emotion, your brain is giving WAY too much kudos to something that is only an emotion. An emotion is real yes, but it's something that cannot physically harm you. It cannot dictate your behaviour. And it will pass with time. It will even pass particularly quickly with time, if that time is spent in selfaware and proactive thought. Which brings me to my final point; once you are thinking about your emotions helpfully and realistically - as emotions that can be painful, but cannot dictate you and will pass - you can bring intention into the strategies you use to assist you through times of emotional overwhelm.
5. Develop helpful strategies as HABITS that you can draw on in times of severe anxiety.
Develop an emotional vocabulary in which you can adequately identity and describe the emotions you are feeling. Then, when you are experiencing them, rather than being fearful of the negative feeling, accept that it will be with you for a time, and focus on articulating and describing it. This practice is self awareness and EQ 101. It is also an aspect of mindfulness - being aware of your body - which you can extend further from your emotional awareness and vocabulary, to physical awareness and vocabulary. Once you have taken note, identified and articulated your emotions, do the same with your physical sensations. How is it that your body is feeling right now? What temperature is it? Where are you feeling pressure? Wriggle your toes and how much room do you have in your shoes? This technique of grounding yourself in your present physical state can be extended as much as you wish and need.
Another helpful technique in times of distress is distraction. Distraction techniques that are proactive and pre-planned are the best. Engage in a favourite hobby/activity. Do some physical exercise. Listen to some favourite music. Think about what positive behaviour helps you in times of stress and make a plan about how you will use it in times of severe anxiety.
Finally there are many other resources available to assist you to combat anxiety. Visit your GP and ask for advice. Ask for referral for a mental health care plan to receive counselling subsidised by Medicare. Seek private counselling. Talk to a trusted, knowledgeable friend. Access the myriad of quality online resources and apps, to name only a few:
Beyond Blue - beyondblue.org.au
The Black Dog Institute - blackdoginstitute.org.au
Sane Australia - sane.org
Here is my latest vlog in which I verbally expound all of the above. I hope you find it helpful and even life changing. In the meantime, connect with yourself and your people, grow in your understanding of yourself and your people, and live your best life. Smiles from Kristy :)
Kristy is the founder of Wellbalance. She is inspired to motivate leaders and workplaces toward proactive, effective and productive communication with their people, to achieve positive outcomes for all. Kristy enjoys long walks on the beach and holding hands at sunset (just joking - actually not really!) Kristy thrives on seeing relationships reach their full potential, and celebrates when people come to understand their true value - to love their flaws, accept their perceived failings and grow beyond these. She believes that the entire human race are healthier and happier when they CONNECT - with their people, GROW - in their self awareness and ability to engage with others, and LIVE - life to their full potential.