To be anxious is highly human according to the existentialists.
Have you experienced a racing heart, sweating hands, not thinking straight and a stomach that is giving you all sorts of uncomfortable signals? So much so that you feel paralysed? That’s really unpleasant and can feel unmanageable and scary.
Many things can trigger anxiety for different people: an exam, a social event, a difficult conversation, being on stage, a bad dream, a spider etc… The list is limitless.
In this situation your brain is revving your body for fleeing or fighting and this is not appropriate or helpful unless you are in immediate danger. Firstly your brain needs to be calmed down so that you become able to think about the best way to handle whatever you are facing.
How to do this?
- Take time out- Move around the block, find your breath, make a cup of herbal tea, have a bath or talk to someone about your fear.
- When you feel less triggered, decide to think about what it is that you are facing and what is the worst thing that can happen if you face it. Depending on the situation it is important to think about whether avoiding it will cause more distress than finding ways to face the fears.
- If you decide to face the fear about the situation then it can be helpful to tell someone you trust and to let them know how you are going to face this fear as together you may think of different ways.
- If your anxiety is based on a generalised sense that you have to be perfect as a person, mother, employee, son or anyone else, then it is important to use the calming strategies and perhaps to consult a therapist who can help you break down this anxiety into smaller chunks that can be made sense of and managed.
- If you have taken any of these steps or have managed a little better every time you have been anxious, then record the evidence of your achievement, give yourself a pat on the back, treat yourself, re-enforce your success!
Author: Diane Metta, Psychotherapist at InsideOut