Our natural tendency is to run away from things that scare us or make us feel anxious. It’s a survival response developed by our brains over thousands of years – but it isn’t helpful to us in the modern world. For example we can’t simply run away from that difficult client or the cliquey set at the gym or the moody boss. Anxiety is uncomfortable and our minds tell us we can’t handle it – and this then adds to the vicious cycle by making us lose our confidence and sabotage ourselves. At best your anxiety will interfere with how well you handle the situation; at worst you may avoid anxiety-provoking situations altogether, making your life smaller and potentially less fulfilling.
So developing the right mindset will determine how successful we are in an anxiety-provoking situation.
Here are a few simple coping strategies to help you deal with your anxiety:
Embrace your anxiety
This may seem counter intuitive but when we fight our anxiety we give it our best energy and fuel it, making it bigger and harder to overcome. Accept that you are feeling anxious and that this is OK and tell yourself “I am having a feeling of anxiety and this is OK”
Do some worst case scenario planning
Our anxiety can be heightened by either thinking about the worst case scenario or, conversely, refusing to think about the dreaded worst case scenario. The most effective way to handle these thoughts is to allow yourself to have them and follow them through logically to look at what you would do if the worst actually did happen. When you make plans for this scenario you’ll feel much more confident about your ability to handle whatever happens.
Yes, it’s absolutely scientifically true that deep and ‘proper’ breathing that comes from our diaphragm, rather than our shallow chest, rapidly alleviates the worst physical symptoms of anxiety. See here for how to breathe for relaxation. You only need to do it for a couple of minutes a few times a day to notice a positive difference to your anxiety.
Reframe your negative self talk
Our mind will try to think about all the bad things that may happen. This is it’s job – it’s there to keep us safe. It just is a bit too good at it’s job sometimes and can imagine all kinds of things that are a) highly unlikely and b) not at all helpful to us living a fulfilling and contented life. We all have our preferred ways of thinking and counselling can really help identify your personal ones in order to change them. Two examples of how we may think unhelpfully are black and white thinking and over generalisation: ‘Black and white’ thinking is where we only look at all or nothing possibilities with no middle ground e.g. we are either perfect or a total failure; our partner loves us completely or is secretly thinking about leaving us. Overgeneralisation is when we come to a general conclusion based on a single incident e.g. because our last relationship failed then all of our relationships are doomed to failure.
Contact me to see how we can help you overcome your anxiety and develop a more helpful mindset
Just a few sessions of counselling can help you face your anxieties in a fresh new way that will help you embrace your anxiety rather than fear it – and grow stronger. Contact me, I’d love to hear from you.