Okay, I’m sure most people are going to read the title of this article and get a little bit upset. I chose this title because of the stigma applied to anxiety that you can just stop worrying. You and I both know it’s not the case. Anxiety is a disease, and we don’t have control over how our brain responds to some situations.
Let me correct that. What I meant is that it is very hard to take control. So hard that many people never learn how. The point I want to impress upon you is that it is, in fact, possible. Nothing is impossible to you, I promise. Even taking control of mental illness is possible to some extent. The constant fear, the worrying that everyone will leave? They don’t have to define you.
Now, I don’t want to make it seem like it’s an easy thing to do. It’s not. I have severe anxiety, and it affects me every day. I refuse, however, to just sit and take it. I intend to fight it and live a peaceful, happy, fulfilled life. What about you? Are you with me?
The question is, how do we fight it? In order to answer that question, we need to understand what anxiety is and we need to know the logistics of an episode of anxiety. Simply put, anxiety is a worry or fear about everyday situations. Almost always, the fear caused by anxiety is unfounded. Your brain simply runs through scenarios and if left unchecked, it starts to believe the panic.
Anxiety causes involuntary thoughts and fears. It becomes a pattern where your brain is conditioned to believe the worst, and negative thoughts are the first ones to intrude in your head.
Combating anxiety means reconditioning your brain to the point where it is more prone to generate a positive thought in response to stimuli. This way you can, in some measure, replace the negativity and fear for positivity and hope. Now, it has to be a very deliberate thing, and it certainly takes effort, but it can be done.
Most of the battle is internal. You need to pay close attention to your thoughts, and when you start to feel anxious and negative thoughts enter your mind, you replace them. Force yourself to think something positive that directly contradicts the anxiety.
For example: there are times when a single facial expression from my significant other causes anxiety, and I start to think that she’s angry with me. Within a matter of seconds, my anxiety wants to convince me that she’s going to break up with me. That may sound silly to someone without anxiety, but that’s actually how my brain works.
To combat that, I think of a more realistic, positive explanation for her looking upset. Perhaps she’s had a bad day, or she’s just tired. Then I’m in a better position to help cheer her up or give her a hug if she needs it. At first this practice can be very difficult, but it gets easier the more you do it. Eventually, your brain more readily sees that not every situation is one to stress about. You will have positive thoughts more often and with less effort.
Another aspect of anxiety is that it harms your ability to see the good in a situation or an environment. When it gets bad, you may only be able to notice negative things, and that can quickly lead to feeling hopeless and can even lead to depression. The principle behind fighting this type of onslaught is very much the same as what we’ve already discussed. You need to deliberately think positive thoughts.
When my anxiety was at its worst and I couldn’t see the good in anything around me, I developed a simple exercise to change my way of thinking. At the end of each day, I would write down four or five aspects of the day that I thought were good, or made me happy. This forced me to notice all of the good, even just the little things. It was really hard at first, actually. The first few days I really had to stretch to think of anything. As the days went by and I put more effort into it, I began to notice little things that made me happy. The sunlight shining through the leaves in a tree, or a cool breeze on a warm day.
After a couple of weeks of doing this, I couldn’t stop at five items on my list for the day. I had to keep going because there was just so much. After writing my list of things for the day, I would go through and take notice of each positive thing I noticed, and I would just think about it for a minute or two.
These exercises really helped me, and if you try them I think they can make a big difference to you. Eventually, you really won’t worry so much. Granted, this is by no means a cure, but as you consistently use these tools to fight your mental illness, it can definitely ease the burden and make things much more manageable.
Do you have any tools or practices that help you combat your anxiety? Share them below so that others can benefit from them! Don’t forget to like us on Facebook, and share this article to your friend that may suffer from anxiety. Thanks for reading!