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Life with Anxiety; How to Control Anxiety

Updated on May 1, 2016
Life with anxiety
Life with anxiety | Source

A life with anxiety.

It is common for most people to occasionally feel a bit of nervousness or fear about certain situations or with certain people. These feelings may include being apprehensive about meeting new people, taking an exam, speaking in front of a group, starting a new job or losing a job, health changes, etc. Sometimes these feelings encourage us to take make different choices, take a new direction, overcome obstacles or to improve our skills or knowledge.

However, some people live life with such extreme forms of anxiety that they live in such constant fear about the future which tends to override enjoying many activities, interaction and over all life. They also tend to become too overwhelmed and lose sight of their ability to make progress or take healthy risks. Anxiety sufferers live in a world where they are in a constant state of extreme apprehension, tension and uneasiness as they dwell on the prospect of things going badly. If they hear sirens, they automatically fear their home is on fire or their loved ones have been injured. They get on the freeway and fear they will be in an accident. Every thing has a potentially hazardous outcome in their minds and makes them overwhelmed and fearful to handle the situation. Their anxiety often spills over on to their interactions with others who may refer to them as constantly stressed out, tightly wound up, always on edge, rigid, on pins and needles, uptight or high strung.

Suffering from anxiety

Feelings of anxiety are constantly brought on by an excessive fear or worry that something bad will happen. Often these fears will leave sufferers feeling powerless about the real or imagined problems that surround them. This sense of powerlessness, helplessness and even hopelessness often leads to issues with depression.

For someone with an anxiety disorder every little thing in their daily life, their routines, and interactions are tainted with thoughts and fears that a catastrophe is certain to occur. They tend to worry excessively about problems and dwell over anticipated failure, which may result in distraction, restlessness, perfectionism, procrastination, over planning, obsessing; inability to function, being overbearing, overprotective or controlling in relationships; having unfinished projects, health issues, obsessive compulsive disorders and most commonly, sleep deprivation.

People with anxiety syndrome often feel powerless against their fears, though they may try with everything they can think of to attempt to manage to detour or control the outcome of these scenarios. They may believe that if they can somehow control a path, an event, or what others think or do that they can somehow prevent these feared outcomes from occurring and create the safe outcome that they desire.

However, putting themselves in the position over the need to control creates even more stress for them as well as for others around them. Their need to control comes from a sense of distrust and the belief that others can not manage things, or manage themselves as well without their constant guidance and direction. If they don’t keep their thumb on others and on activities then certainly bad things will befall them. They may even go to the extent of doing things for others just to be sure it’s done “the right way.” This tends to result in emotional friction, over-demanding expectations, or a lack of trust and resentment. The odd things is, is that this attempt to prevent chaos often creates its own forms of chaos and therefore, at some point may even result in the outcomes that they were trying to prevent in the first place.

The agonizing physical affects of anxiety.

Physical symptoms that come from a life with anxiety include feeling uncomfortable, tense or fearful when certain situations or thoughts arise. Those who are suffering from anxiety desire to avoid these feared outcomes or situations by purposely choosing not to participate in an activity or interaction; or attempt to try to control how the event or interaction turns out. They may become over directive; plan, plan & plan some more; lack in spontaneity; worry about changes or mishaps and about every little detail.

Anxiety often leaves one feeling restless and on edge, irritable, easily exhausted and suffering from muscle tension. They also have trouble sleeping or tend to never feel rested, have short & shallow breaths, heart palpitations, trembling or shaking, dizziness, choking, abdominal discomfort, numbness, feeling at loss with their self, having a fear of themselves or a situation becoming out of control, may have fears of dying, hot flashes or chills, sweating, headaches and difficulties concentrating due to the constant details that they obsess over and the imagined catastrophes they exaggerate in their mind.

The minds of people with anxiety are also plagued with thoughts such as all or nothing thinking; believing everything always goes bad or can go bad if every detail isn’t catered to in order to ensure things will be perfect. Another example is, if others don’t think they are the greatest then they must think the worst about them. The physical symptoms connected to anxiety can also lead to hypochondriac fears; a small symptom is feared to be the result of a deadly disease which then feeds into more worry and more physical symptoms. They also tend to doubt their own abilities or the abilities of others to handle themselves in certain situations or outcomes, which is why they attempt to control everything in order to try to prevent these feared situations from arising.

Reducing anxiety without prescription meds is possible; a cognitive approach to anxiety.

Learning to control anxiety can be done through redirecting habitual thought processes. I have learned that feelings of anxiety are often brought on through our upbringing. Many people suffering from anxiety witnessed anxiety syndrome throughout their family. Therefore, the thought processes behind the feelings of anxiety are often learned and habitually developed. Learned habits are also referred to as cognitive behaviors.

The reason why I share that is because if you can learn something, then it is possible to learn a new way to deal with situations in order to change habits. Rather than continue to live every day in worry, fear, and panic consider the possibility of the ideas presented here as a cognitive approach to anxiety. I have used these methods myself in order to better control anxiety. By changing your habits and processes, you will be able to relax more, trust in new ideas, deal with differences & change better and be able to enjoy the days, events and the interactions of others more.

Focus less on the potential problem and more on a realistic and positive outcome.

A very important way to control anxiety is to pay attention to the negative self-talk that goes on in your mind. Be aware of the menacing, destructive thoughts and take a realistic inventory on how likely it is that this idea may occur. Rate it on a scale of 1 to 10. If you find that the possibility of this event occurring rates low on your scale, then you can better understand that the level of concern about this outcome is low. Also, think about all the things that can go well rather than focusing primarily on the bad possibilities. Learn to trust that the world won’t end and your life will go on, even when mishaps do occur; or that things can still go well even if every detail is not planned out or isn’t perfectly done.

This one may be a tough one to work on, but recognize and let go of the need to control the outcomes by understanding what you truly do and do not have control over or even more so, what is and is not your issue to control. Instead, practice ways to manage your anxieties, such as slowing down & managing your thoughts, doing relaxation techniques and deep breathing. If you obsess over fears, bad things will certainly happen… even if at the very least, you become exhausted, stressed and ill. Once you start worrying, your mind tends to repeat and obsess over these same kinds of thoughts and unnecessary concerns. By redirecting your thoughts, you create new thought processes and patterns in your brain.

Write down your worries on a sheet of paper and consider which of those concerns you truly have no control over. For instance, you can not change events that have already happened, and you can't predict or be certain of the events and outcomes that are going to happen; you can't change or control what other people think, feel or decide to do; you can't control the weather, the economy, or if you're company begins to lay off employees. Accept what you can't control and learn to release them from your mind. It does no good to obsess over things you have no control over. Obsessively worrying about them won’t change a thing. Next, consider the situations that are in your control and work on improving the situation in order to create a more positive outcome.

Do a review of the concerns and then shift your thoughts to what you can and can not control. Write these down then put together a solution for the problem and a reasonable time to work on each step of this problem. Especially during the night, laying there just thinking of the things you’ve “gotta do” can keep you from sleeping well. Remind yourself that most things can wait until morning, and that you can deal with them much better at that time if you get a good night of sleep. You can keep a notepad next to your bed and write down your objective for the morning, but state to yourself that it can wait until then. It’s important to put priority on your self care.

If you realize the concern is out of your control, dismiss the worry all together. You can also down what you’ve realized you have no control over and then choose a time to dispose of it. You can just crumple it and throw it away, shred it, burn it, or send it out to sea (flush it). This act resembles a physical form of releasing the concern from you. Be sure to use a mantra as you dispose of it, such as “I can not control this situation. Therefore, I am releasing concern over it from me.”

Tell yourself "STOP" when your mind begins to run off with fears and worries that are not in your control or that are not realistic to tend to at this time, especially during the night. Sometimes it helps to envision a stop sign or a stop light when you say “stop” to the racing concerns in your mind.

Remember that the only thing you can control is your own thoughts, actions and reactions. Needless worrying won't change or prevent anything. Become aware that excessive-worrying can definitely ruin a good opportunity.

Changing cognitive behaviors to control anxiety with positive thoughts.

Thoughts we have and the way we talk to ourselves determines how we feel. The words we say become our reality. So whenever you find yourself thinking negatively or worrying excessively, replace the negative words with positive thoughts and solutions. Affirmation exercises are a great way to redirect the mind from disastrous thinking towards creating a more calm and positive perspective. Your affirmations for reducing anxiety may include statements such as:

"No one or nothing else is responsible for how I feel; only I am responsible for how I feel in a situation."

"I know I can make it through this; which is easier to do when I am calm rather than fearful and tense."

"I can see the positive side that will result when I take positive action over the bad results of constantly worrying."

"Disastrous thinking leads to disastrous outcomes. If I am going to succeed, I need to be calm and responsible for my feelings and my own actions rather than obsessing about and controlling others around me."

“I am able to respond better to situations when I take care of myself. I choose to put care for myself above obsessive worry and fear.”

“What is the worst that can happen? Is that a realistic possibility? How realistic is it? If that does happen, I trust that I can handle it. For now, I wish to enjoy this moment.”

Breathe to control anxiety thoughts.

Don't forget to take deep cleansing breaths. People who suffer from anxiety syndrome, stress, and panic disorders tend to hold their breath a lot or take short, shallow breaths. Be sure to fill your chest, lungs and abdomen with air and then slowly release all the air and allow the tension from within to expel with the exhale. It helps if you count while breathing; count to four while you inhale and then to four while you exhale. This helps to keep your breathing consistent. Take a few moments to close your eyes and focus on the breaths as you feel it fill you up and flow out of you; feel your muscles drop and relax. This is an important step in reducing anxiety as stress tends to make muscles tense up which results in many physical aches and pains, as well as hyperventilation, hypertension and dizziness.

What you consume may consume you.

Certain substances, such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, salt, saturated fats (especially from animal products), starches, and sugar or corn sweeteners tend to aggravate feelings of anxiety. Reduce these substances and consume more whole fruits, whole grains, vegetables, soy proteins, and foods containing Omega-3's into the daily diet for reducing anxiety. Also avoid eating on the run or skipping meals as these may result in more physical and emotional symptoms.

Exercise to reduce feelings of anxiety.

Exercise is the simplest and most effective way to help overcome anxiety, stress and even panic attacks. When you feel overwhelmed by stress, even getting out and going for a walk can help clear your mind, ease tension in your muscles and create better blood flow. Regular exercise can help to reduce migraines, muscle and joint stiffness, depression, and help improve your quality of sleep.

Being motivated about an exercise routine is very important, start small and keep your routine simple with a variety of exercises; alternate different routines on different days; make your routine easy enough to achieve, yet challenging enough to not get bored; seek out fun activities. I believe that we lose the fun in exercise as we grow up. Watch children, see how their play time is often their exercise time as well. The more fun you have being active, the more you’ll look forward to doing it. Find a friend to exercise with as they can help provide you with more motivation to stick to your routine.

Consider herbal and alternative options to help treat anxiety.

Yoga, relaxation techniques, meditation, tai chi, qi gong, muscle massage, acupuncture and acupressure are all good hands on remedies with specific methods for reducing stress. Learn more about these options and find out what methods work best for you.

Herbal supplements that provide a mild relaxant to feelings of anxiety include chamomile, lemon balm, skullcap, valerian, or passionflower.

Aromatherapies from the essential oils of lavender, jasmine, or blue chamomile are known to have a calming affect from anxiety causes.

Note: Before taking herbal remedies, be sure to learn all you can about the herb, its benefits, suggested doses and any warnings associated with it. Be sure to converse with a medical expert about taking herbs with prescribed medications.

Patience & Persistence

Be patient with yourself. It takes at least three months to develop new habits. It took me a few months to begin to notice the impact of these efforts and even longer to feel like I had dominated over the anxiety habits. I still struggle with anxiety from time to time. But the more you exercise your mind and practice the methods, the easier it gets and the stronger you get over the anxiety thoughts. Be consistent and persistent with your efforts, in the long run you’ll find it will be well worth the time and attention you’ve put in to it all!

If you feel you are unable to control anxiety yourself, consider further guidance from self-help books, therapists, holistic healers or a medical doctor.


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    • Mary Merriment profile image

      Mary Merriment 5 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

      Kenneth, Thank you for your very positive feedback. I greatly appreciate the message you've left here as well as the other avenues of contact. It's so very motivating to receive such kind and positive words.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Mary,

      Wow, what a great hub. Voted up and all the way across. Amazing, in-depth and touched me because I suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, severe bouts of depression, but I have taken therapy and with my meds, I can cope. Of course, with God's merciful grace. I wouldn't want to give med's all of the credit. I appreciate YOUR taking time to write this hub which I felt was a great help personally, and all who suffer from this awful "monster."

    • Mary Merriment profile image

      Mary Merriment 5 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

      Thank you teacherjoe52. I believe positive reinforcement is all the same, no matter how you choose to direct it. Just as long as you're focusing on redirecting the mind to a positive state.

    • teacherjoe52 profile image

      teacherjoe52 5 years ago

      Good morning Mary.

      I very stronly agree with your sugesstions.

      When stressful times come to me, I like to stop and pray to Jesus about the situation.I ask for the strength, wisdom and patience to deal with it appropriately. After a few monents of prayer serinity returns to me. Some of the best classes I taugh came in jusy such situations.

      God bless you.

    • Mary Merriment profile image

      Mary Merriment 5 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

      Thank you so very, very much lovedoctor926.

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 5 years ago

      This is one of the best hubs on self improvement that I've read so far.

    • Mary Merriment profile image

      Mary Merriment 5 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

      Thank you so very much for your support and positive reinforcement billybuc.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      All excellent suggestions, and I can verify that they work.

      On another note, you are an excellent writer. It is so nice to read good grammar, good sentence structure, and a voice that is all your own. Well done my new friend; keep writing because you are good at it.