Anxiety is the single most common mental health disorder, with an estimated 1 in 10 people experiencing it at some point in their lives. It’s that feeling of worry, nervousness and unease that something bad is about to happen and for some, it can be incredibly debilitating.
And unlike stress, which comes and goes, anxiety is something that persists and it can be difficult to keep it under control. When we do try really hard to stop it, we find that the anxiety becomes even more acute – it’s like me saying to you, don’t think about a pink elephant.
So trying to control and suppress the anxiety is not a good solution. Unfortunately many of us have learned to believe that this is exactly what we need to do: to suppress and not express, instead of learning to let go of the anxiety and see it as part of the human condition.
By letting go of the effort to control difficult thoughts and allowing the feelings to play out rather than shutting them away, we will find that our anxiety will start to subside.
Now this is a process that requires a real shift in the way we approach anxiety and if the anxiety is especially challenging, letting go of it can be incredibly difficult when the feelings are so immediate. Nevertheless, it’s only by actually doing this over time that the benefits will come.
So besides this, what else can we do about our anxiety?
The first thing I want to point out is that often, we can find ourselves searching for the causes of our anxiety or some kind of remedy.
Now although this is a positive thing to do, since understanding why you have anxiety can be a first step to getting over it, we shouldn’t get bogged down in it or we simply risk ruminating – going over and over the feelings and situations until they dominate us.
The reason why I say this is that sometimes we think we might be trying to solve the problem by searching for the causes, but instead, we’re actually indulging in it and perpetuating the problem. It can get to such a stage that anxiety can end up becoming our identity as we’re desperately trying to do whatever we can to get rid of it.
Again, this goes back to the idea of taking a completely different perspective with your anxiety, by allowing it to be, otherwise we end up giving our anxiety more attention than it deserves. And always remember, the anxiety is the body’s fight or flight process kicking in when in reality you are not in danger, saturating us with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. No wonder we struggle with this. That’s why fighting it will make little difference.
So, the other actionable thing that you can do is change your routine. So get out and do something different. It could be exercising, going for a walk, trying meditation, setting worry time aside for the issues you face, but whatever it is, break the routine that your anxiety has got you locked into and don’t wait around to feel like it.