I stumbled across this article on managing stress and felt the need to share it, especially because of its focus on fear. Fear is crippling and is at the heart of many troubling circumstances we face daily. Please take time not only to read the article, but also commit to putting several of these recommendations into practice.
Used with permission from StudentReach.Org
Anxiety is an epidemic. Some of us have gone unscathed until something traumatic has happened and then we’ve felt the effect of high anxiety. We’re going to get into some ways to overcome anxiety.
Understand Your Anxiety
Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat. At the root of anxiety is fear. And it’s a kind of fear that isn’t helpful, but sometimes debilitating. This fear can be broken down into a few areas.
Desensitize Yourself to Your Fear
“An individual develops courage by doing courageous acts” — Aristotle
Research has shown that slowly exposing yourself to your fears over time can really help you in situations where you’ll be forced to face them. The technical term for this is systematic desensitization. For instance, people who fear the dentist starts with just sitting in the waiting room and then sitting in an examination room.
The first few times in the examination room, no examination takes place. Maybe holding the tools that will be used or some other desensitizing practice takes place. This could be followed by the dentist coming in and just opening the patient’s mouth without any serious dental tools.
Over time this kind of technique can reduce fear and anxiety. This can be used with almost any anxiety-causing situation. The goal of this is to become comfortable with each level. Once you’ve replaced your fear with comfort, you move on to the next level of your fear.
Over time this kind of technique can reduce fear and anxiety. This can be used with almost any anxiety-causing situation.
Talk Through It
Talking yourself through different scenarios that might happen can be helpful. Then talking to yourself quietly or even just in your head when you’re in the situation can make an unfamiliar or fear-inducing situation seem a little bit more comfortable like you’ve already been there.
Pilots, athletes, and other people in high-pressure situations do this as they go through their checklists. It’s the same way as repeating a phone number will help you remember it to write it down later because as you speak you are using the muscle memory of vocalizing something.
Talking to someone whether that be a friend, a relative, or another trusted person, can help alleviate a little of the anxiety you’re facing. The goal here is to just get the anxious thoughts out of your head, and in doing so will help alleviate anxious feelings.
Write it Out
Writing out your feelings, stresses, and fears, helps to get them out of your head so you don’t have to keep obsessing over them. This can take on a number of forms. It can be through a drawing, a bulleted list, writing out sentences, typing a note in your phone or on your laptop… whatever feels right to you. This is for you to process your thoughts. Do it every day. Just for a few minutes.
Deep breathing exercises can do amazing things for anxiety. This can be done in the midst of an uncomfortable situation, during a panic attack or even as a calming exercise used throughout the day. In some circumstances, deep breathing techniques have been found to be more effective in treating anxiety than medications. Combined with a focus on what is happening in the body- it can also serve as a bit of a mind reset.
Do The Basics
Sleeping, eating right, and exercising are the best ways to improve your mental health. The effects these three things have on your mental health alone are phenomenal.
if you’re like the average person just the lack of sleep can cause anxiety. At about the one-hundred-hour mark without sleep is the beginning of insanity and a lack of sleep can even result in death. So, it comes as no surprise to us that not getting enough sleep can make us a little anxious.
To a lesser extent, our diet affects us and our mental state in surprising ways. The right diet, heavy in fish oils (omega-3 fatty acids), has been found to improve the moods of people suffering from clinical anxiety and depression.
Maybe skip the morning coffee, caffeine’s effect on your anxiety should not be overlooked. If you can’t skip the coffee, switch to deaf. It helps tremendously.
Moderate exercise, on the other hand, might be the most effective tool we have in dealing with anxiety. The mental benefits of physical exercise have been proven repeatedly to help alleviate anxiety through the endorphins your brain releases.
Using a system of rewards for facing fears can help us look past the immediate anxiety-causing situation to something more pleasurable. This can also help us desensitize ourselves by facing our fear repeatedly because we want the reward.
This is how the reward system works: imagine a scenario that causes you great fear, and then imagine a reward that you might be able to give yourself for enduring the anxiety caused by this fearful situation. Imagine facing those situations after you’ve received a reward over time. We may have done it initially for the reward, but eventually, you can just do it, as the newfound comfort has replaced the fear.
Learn More About Your Fear
Researching the thing that you’re afraid of can have positive effects because among other things you might find techniques others have used to face their fears. You might even find the thing you’re afraid of isn’t nearly as scary as you initially thought.
More importantly, the more you break down your overall anxiety into the smaller things that cause this anxiety, the smaller the fears seem when combined with the bigger thing you’re afraid of.
Putting your fear under a microscope gives you a new perspective and a logical understanding that can help you process what is a real danger that needs to be dealt with, and what are imagined or amplified things that need to be brought into perspective.
Let Your Fear Become Your Fuel
We think of fear as a negative because of the unpleasant feelings that it creates.
fear is a powerful emotion that motivates people to do all kinds of things. Fear can be a signal that there is real danger and cause us to be more cautious.
Sometimes our fears have a negative effect, but there are also all kinds of positive effects fear can have. Fear can also be a great motivator. It can motivate us to move when we need to. Fear can become the fuel we need to do what we need to do and become who we need to become.
More importantly, the fear of repeating past failures can be something that fuels us through the difficult and uncomfortable processes we need to go through to find success.
Also, the exhilaration of facing our fear can be a very powerful emotion. When we fear heights, riding a roller coaster that we find terrifying or even watching a scary movie are examples of how the powerful emotion of fear can be enticing. When we use that powerful emotion and the adrenaline that accompanies it as a motivator, fear itself becomes fuel.
Think Happy Thoughts
There is no more important discipline than becoming disciplined in your thoughts.
Have you ever noticed that some people just always seem to be happy? Have you noticed that some of the people you know that have the most to be grateful for are the most unhappy people? And that some of the people who have it the toughest seem to be the happiest?
We can chalk it up to personality or their natural level of sadness or whatever we want, but here’s the truth: some people decide to be happy. If you decide to discipline your thoughts to focus on the best things in your life and the best things in this world, it will feel fake at first. However, as the old saying goes “fake it till you make it.”
There are a lot of things to be afraid of in this world, and we all have things to worry about. You get to choose what you’re going to focus on. If you choose positive things, your life will be more positive, despite the cards that have been dealt to you.
Sure, other people might have it better, but you can choose to be happy. Start each morning off with the attitude that today is going to be a good day and then list the reasons why. If you go into the day thinking you’re going to have a bad day well, chances are you are going to have a bad day.
The truth is fear is always a present thing, no one is worry-free. It’s just a matter of letting it control you or learning to do the things that scare you anyway.
Hopefully, some of the techniques I’ve related to you in this post will help you, but maybe, better yet will help you think of other ways that are even more effective for you and your situation. Use this as a resource.
Winston Churchill said you have nothing to fear but fear itself. That of course is not true. But fear itself can become scarier than the actual thing that you fear. Working at it every day might just change the way you think and the way you react.