There’s an old adage that says anxiety is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere. If you’ve ever suffered from anxiety then you’ll know just how much time it can take up worrying about things that may never happen. Anxiety can affect you physically, mentally and emotionally, even though it can sometimes be hard to pinpoint exactly what triggered your anxiety in the first place.
Physically, anxiety can cause feelings of panic, such as a tight chest, shortness of breath, dizziness and a racing heart. Mentally, anxious thinking can lead you down the road to worst-case outcomes as you worry and fret and agonise over what might happen. Emotionally, it can feel as though you’ve become paralysed with fear, unable to act and feeling trapped, and with an underlying sense of unease.
Physiologically, anxiety comes from the ‘fight or flight’ response that releases adrenaline into our system in the face of a potential threat. Everyday ‘threats’ can be job interviews, having to perform or speak in public, or having an argument with a loved one. The adrenaline gives an extra boost when needed. But with people with anxiety, the ‘fight or flight’ response can be triggered even when the threat is tiny or imagined.
How to calm your anxiety.
1 - Stay in the moment. Don’t project your thoughts and fears into the future. Concentrate on being fully present now. Keep everything you need to do for the day in the day. Think about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.
2 - Let go of what you can’t control. Anxiety is often about control. You may feel out of control because of your projections into the future. You may find yourself trying to control everything in order to live your projection, rather than letting go of what you can’t control.
3 - Trust yourself more. Anxiety can make you overthink and fret and ruminate over decisions you’ve made in case they weren’t the ‘right’ ones. Go with what feels right to you and let other options go.
4 - Set realistic expectations. Ever given yourself an impossibly long and complex to-do list, only to find yourself anxious and stressed and berating yourself for not being able to cross everything off your list? This is guaranteed to stoke your anxiety. Keep your diary up to date and be realistic with your work and personal commitments. Otherwise you can become overwhelmed with filling the gaps.
5 - Embrace the unknown. OK, this is extremely difficult if you suffer from anxiety because not knowing what’s going to happen – and the anticipation of something bad happening – can be far worse than knowing what’s around the corner. You can’t foresee everything, so keep your focus on what’s happening right now in front of you rather than fretting over what might be coming over the horizon. Accept what will be will be, and make the most of now. No rocking chair required.