3 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety
Before I knew what anxiety was, I remember having my first panic attack and thinking that I was literally going to die. I was in college, and studying for a test alone in my room at the time, and suddenly it just hit me. I made my roommate drive me to the ER because I had no idea what was happening. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know that it feels very real. Before that, I had never dealt with anxiety, so I didn’t even know what a panic attack was. While I rarely have panic attacks anymore, anxiety isn’t something that goes away completely, at least not for me. Here are a few ways I deal with anxiety and worrying, and I hope they can help keep you calm when you need it!
Tell Yourself This: “There’s No Tiger In The Room”
Sometimes I get anxious due to certain stressful situations, but a lot of times, it’s totally out of the blue and random. Basically, when anxiety hits, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode and physically “gears up” for battle. But, what your body is not processing is that you are probably not in physical danger. It just acts as if you are. So you start sweating, your heart beats faster, and you become super aware of your surroundings. Back in the cavemen times, this response would be great! Your body would be helping itself stay safe from predators! But now, when it happens during my morning coffee while my cat is bathing herself on the couch next to me, not so much. I’ve got good news for you, though: You can trick your body out of a panic attack just as easily as your body can be tricked into one. In those moments when I feel very anxious, I tell myself “There’s no tiger in the room. There’s no tiger in the room.” and I repeat this until my body fully understands it.
Remember That Only 4% of the Things You Worry About Will Actually Happen
Read that statistic again! Need I say more? Dealing with anxiety is not just having “panic attacks”, but it’s the excessive worrying that can sometimes happen. Worrying is down payment on a problem you probably won’t have. I get the most anxious right before big life events. I know this about myself. Before I graduated from college I freaked out, before I got engaged, married, had my first child, I got VERY worried that the big life event that I was looking forward to wouldn’t end up happening. I worried that I would trip while walking down the aisle, I worried that my baby would be safe during delivery, and as a new mom, I doubted that I would do a good job. Now that I know I freak out during big life changes, I am more able to see these things for what they are: only worries, not realities. While life will sometimes throw you curve balls, they are usually not the ones you can expect or predict, so stop trying to figure out how disaster will strike and start reminding yourself that most likely the things you desire in life will come to pass and everything will be okay. It really will!
You Are Not In Control Of Your Circumstances, Only Your Reaction
It’s human nature to try and “figure everything out”, and that is a good and a bad thing. But for people who deal with anxiety, it’s mostly bad. Mainly because this leads to worrying about how things will work out, and worrying A LOT. The truth is, even the things we think we can control, we really don’t have that much say in. For example, I worried pretty relentlessly about finding “the one” when I was 24, and I basically thought out each scenario about how I would potentially miss the opportunity to meet him if I didn’t go to spin class/the grocery store on Saturday/my friend’s birthday party/a grad school luncheon/PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING. I already thought I had covered each potential way I would meet him, but I didn’t account for the fact that I actually met him by seeing a picture of him on Facebook as I was sitting in my car. Alone. Not at a social gathering. So, all the worrying I did to try to be as social as possible was completely off-base and had nothing to do with how things actuallyturned out. Go figure. God is leading you on your perfect path: trust Him and let go of the need to control. I’m not perfect at this (at all) but every day I am trying.
Do you feel more calm? If not, just know that it’s ok sometimes too. You are not weird, broken, or weak. Dealing with anxiety is actually a very brave thing to go through. Struggling and wanting to succeed are very strong attributes and I applaud you for being who you are. There are times I just feel anxious, and I don’t know why, and I have to be okay with it. It’s okay to struggle sometimes. Without struggle, there can’t be progress. The trick with anxiety is not beating yourself about feeling anxious. The more bad thoughts and feelings you allow, the worse it will get. Instead, be kind to yourself and be patient. This too shall pass. Imagine yourself on a calm, beautiful beach, or wherever your sacred place may be. And as always, remember you are not alone.