Overcoming anxiety is achievable, but it isn’t easy.
There’s no denying that anxiety is a serious problem in the modern world.
From mild anxiety that makes your day less enjoyable than it could be, through to crippling anxiety which requires medication and therapy, it shouldn’t be underestimated.
At the same time, anxiety shouldn’t be amplified.
Is it serious? Yes. Should it be treated as such? Absolutely.
But can anxiety be overcome? You bet!
This guide from Destroy The Fear isn’t intended to take the place of medical help.
If your anxiety is severe, you should seek professional help.
However, if you feel you’re in a position to help your own anxiety, then these five ideas are intended to help you fight back.
Sometimes, the way we think about the things that make us anxious is a big part of the problem.
If an anxious thought is like a seed, we often pour water onto it in the form of the mental story we tell ourselves.
Making a conscious change to the way we deal with our anxiety mentally can lessen its physical effects.
Often, reframing our entire perception of anxiety is a valuable first step in taking charge of it.
What are some of the best reframes for someone experiencing anxiety?
- From problem to challenge. Our language often adds more negativity to an already difficult situation. If you think about something as a problem, or an issue, it often becomes more of one. If you think about it as a challenge to be overcome, your subconscious starts to treat it accordingly.
- Put it back in perspective. To use a visual comparison, an anxious thought is often overly ‘zoomed in’. It fills our whole perception, preventing us from seeing the bigger picture. Forcing ourselves to get some perspective can lessen the impact of anxiety. Different people do this in different ways. For some, thinking of someone in a worse situation can help. For others, taking a walk under the stars at night can help demagnify what they’re going through. Find something that helps you keep things in perspective, and put it to work whenever your anxiety feels too great.
- See the funny side. In one of Tony Robbins’ early books, he talks about a visualization technique for lessening anxiety. To paraphrase, take something that scares you, and make it hilarious. For example, let’s say your boss makes you anxious. Picture your book speaking in your mind. However, give them a funny, squeaky voice instead of their usual tone! By making things hilarious, we lessen the level of anxiety we feel about them.
Sometimes, changing the way we mentally deal with something can greatly lessen the level of anxiety we experience. Try these reframing techniques as a starting point for alleviating your anxiety.
Build Up Slowly
Sometimes, mental perception isn’t enough to lessen anxiety.
It requires actual action that takes place in the real world.
Broadly speaking, there are two ways to go about this.
Either a) slow and steady, or b) rip the plaster off and take massive action.
We deal with the more drastic approach next.
So what are some ways we can take a gradual approach to overcoming anxiety?
- Experience a smaller version of the source of anxiety. Let’s say, for example, you’re scared of heights. The worst case scenario for this fear would be standing on top of a mountain. To take a step towards overcoming this anxiety, could you stand on a hill? If not, what about a staircase? If not, what about a small box? Even the smallest step is a step in the right direction. Build up over time.
- Experience the source of your anxiety for a very short length of time. Imagine you are scared of cats. Could someone bring a cat into the same room as you for three seconds, before taking it away? Could they increase that to 30 seconds? Eventually, could you be left in the room with a cat for a whole minute?
- Can you find a way to make the source of your anxiety a normal part of your life? Say, for example, you are anxious about getting public transport. Can you set your week up in a way that, once a week, you have no alternative other than using public transport? Maybe you agree in advance to lend someone your car at that time of the week. By making the source of your anxiety a normal part of your life, you’ll lose the anxiety you feel about it at other times.
We just explored a way to gradually introduce the source of your anxiety into your life.
However, that isn’t always the right approach.
Some people prefer to take massive action and get quicker results.
Other situations don’t have the luxury of slow and steady action over time.
If you want to take a leap, and aggressively confront your anxiety, what are some ways to do so?
- Impose external consequences on yourself. Often, the reason we don’t overcome our anxieties is the lack of impetus to do so. If you’re scared of the dark, for example, what are the consequences of leaving a light on? A slightly higher electric bill, perhaps. However, you can take extreme action to make the consequences of inaction more severe than the consequences of action. Use a service such as Stickk to impose external motivation upon yourself.
- Go a step further. One technique for diminishing anxiety is confronting something even more severe than that which you fear. Say, for example, you’re anxious to talk to someone in your social circle you feel attracted to. On a Saturday night, go out with a friend. Give them $100 in $10 bills. You now have to talk to ten attractive people in order to get your money back, $10 at a time. After talking to ten attractive strangers, talking to one attractive person you already know will seem tame in comparison.
- Enlist others. Often, our failure to confront anxiety is due to the fact that doing so is in our own hands. After all, it’s a lot easier to be operated on than to operate on ourselves! Finding people willing to assist us on our journey to overcoming anxiety can be hugely helpful. These could be people who have successfully overcome the same anxiety you face, or simply people who don’t share your anxieties, but are willing to walk with you as you face your fears.
Whether you take a slower or more severe approach to overcoming your anxiety will depend upon your personality and the specific situation you find yourself in.
Either approach can work. The main thing is taking the first step. What will you do to ensure you take action instead of just reading another article?
One of the worst things about anxiety is how it distorts our thinking.
Like any type of challenge, anxiety gains greater power when we see our situation as unique.
When we stop and realize that almost anything making us anxious has made someone else anxious, we realize we are not alone, and there are others who have overcome the challenges we face.
So what are some of the ways we can use the examples of others as tools to overcome our own anxiety?
- Find the maximum level of similarity. Someone whose situation is as close as possible to your own will be more useful than someone whose situation is vastly different. For example, tools and ideas about overcoming a fear of heights in 2019 might be a little different than those found in 1919! However, if the 1919 ideas are all that’s available, they’re still far better than nothing.
- As well as figuring out the steps someone else took to overcome their anxiety, figure out their inner state as much as you are able to. What are the beliefs they had? How did these change? What language did they use to talk to themselves about the anxiety they felt, and how did this language adjust as the anxiety lessened?
- Speak to a specialist. If you are able to do so, speak to someone who has successfully helped a large number of people overcome the anxiety you feel. They will have a far greater range of examples to call upon.
Realizing that plenty of others have felt the same anxiety you feel can be a real turning point in your journey. You’re not alone. Plenty of others have overcome your anxiety, and with time, you’ll get there too!
Sometimes, treating anxiety in isolation isn’t the most helpful approach to take.
The bigger picture of a person’s life can be a key factor in the amount and intensity of anxiety someone feels.
Say, for example, a person is scared of public speaking. This anxiety will exist on the person’s best day and their worst day. However, the level of anxiety they fear about public speaking will be greatly intensified on their worst day in comparison to their best.
So what are some holistic approaches to overcoming anxiety?
- Sleep. A lack of sleep makes absolutely everything worse, including anxiety. In fact, anxiety and sleep often have a very toxic relationship with each other. The more someone worries, the less they sleep. The less they sleep, the more they worry. Sometimes, outside intervention is needed to break the cycle. Don’t be afraid to speak to a doctor if a lack of sleep is degrading the quality of your life and worsening your anxiety.
- Nutritional intake. A healthy and balanced diet will help with anxiety. Reducing caffeine consumption or switching the source of caffeine can also help. For example, the other substances contained in tea act as a counterbalance to the caffeine in a way which isn’t seen in coffee.
- Downtime activity. Are you using your free time in a way which promotes relaxation and a lessening of anxiety? If you spend too much time focusing on the news, you are more likely to feel anxious. The news gives a negative view of the world. If you spend your time scrolling through idealized versions of people’s lives on social media, you are more likely to feel anxious. Instead, make time for self care activities that are proven to help someone feel better.
You should approach taking care of your anxiety as a two-step process. Focus on the source of your anxiety itself, but also focus on your life as a holistic whole. Both aspects are important to overcome your anxiety.
Overcoming Anxiety – Final Thoughts
Thank you so much for taking the time to check out Destroy The Fear’s guide to overcoming anxiety.
While anxiety is a fact of life, that doesn’t mean we are powerless.
If you feel an anxiety you have is impairing your life, we truly hope one or more of the five techniques found here will give you a plan of attack.
We’d also love to hear your thoughts.
What have you found useful in overcoming your anxieties in the past?
What have you tried that hasn’t worked as well?
We would love to hear from you in the comments!