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Overcome Anxiety with Positive Thinking

Updated on December 21, 2012

Developing a Postiive Outlook

A lot of situations in life catch us unaware. It's easy to be sucked into a downward spiral when things don't go according to plan. Whether a relationship ends or you've just been told that you're being laid off from your supposedly-stable job, the result is typically the same. Negativity can easily become overwhelming and once you're sucked into the downward spiral, it's increasingly hard to climb back out.

Despair, self-doubt and insecurity are all normal human traits. They creep out of our mental states and become obvious in the way we present ourselves to others. Our underlying emotional state factors into our overall persona and can be very difficult to overcome. When facing a circumstance in which starting over is necessary, first impressions are often made at the spur of the moment - and it's impossible to recreate them to be more favorable. Once a first impression has been set, the person who made it automatically begins assuming things about you. Regardless of whether or not these assumptions are true, they play a large role in our opportunities.

Avoid the Downward Spiral:
For those like me who have an anxiety disorder - especially a social anxiety disorder, presenting the best possible you to the outside world can be a daunting and often overwhelming challenge. It's difficult to overcome a lot of the doubt and self-consciousness that is felt on a nearly-daily basis. Change does not come easily to a lot of people, and anxiety can make the prospect of changing a comfortable routine seem nearly impossible. This anxiety is able to be dispelled - or at least delayed - in order to put on a brave face when necessary. A lot of people who suffer from social anxiety are actually quite charming and personable if you can break through the anxious exterior. Bringing that person to life can be a hard challenge to face, but it's definitely worth the effort when confronted with social situations that are often out of your control.

Obviously the best way to keep yourself in a positive frame of mind is to avoid the downward spiral of despair entirely. This may be easier said than done, however. Sometimes things hit us hard when we least expect them and being caught unaware is often a huge hurdle in the path to positive thinking.

If we know in advance that something is going to change, it's often easier to prepare for it - but until it arrives, it's difficult to foresee the full emotional impact that the change is going to have. For example, if you receive word that your job is going to be outsourced in 60 days, there's often a cycle of grief that takes place that is comparable to the loss of a friend or loved one. You can go from hopeful and positive to depressed and angry within a split second, and these emotions are volatile and difficult to control.

Instead of focusing only on the big picture and letting your anxiety build to an unmanageable level, decide to take things one day at a time. If a day seems like too vast of a time frame, take things at any given moment. Evaluate how you're feeling right at this moment. Take a few deep breaths. Recognize the fact that although it's a scary prospect you will make it through and you will be okay when you're on the other side. You don't have to have all the answers as to how or why right now. You simply have to have the awareness that things will work out - and they have a much higher probability of doing so when coupled with some positive thinking along the way.

The Dangers of Self-Sabotage
If you've ever heard the old adage "I'm my own worst enemy" it's because it's true. As anxiety builds and builds and gets no release, it's easy to start assuming the worst instead of hoping for the best. This not only comes across in the way we present ourselves to others, it starts to play tricks with our minds as well. If you're continually doubting yourself and reaffirming that things are going to go wrong, they're going to. We have a tendency to take doubt and insecurity to unimaginable heights when faced with challenges that we're not expecting. This causes us to unintentionally sabotage our efforts, and ultimately we only have ourselves to blame.

If you feel your emotions starting to nose-dive, make a conscious effort to stop the process in its tracks. It's not always easy to train our brain to think positively - especially when it's so accustomed to doing the opposite. As anxiety builds and you become aware of it, acknowledge that it's there and then dispel it. Breathe deeply and remind yourself that things are going to be okay. When you start to feel a little better, keep breathing deeply until you feel the anxiety beginning to decrease. Over time, this process will become almost second-nature, and you won't have to acutely be aware of it in order for it to be effective. It will simply happen behind the scenes and you'll feel less anxious overall.

Give Yourself a Lift:
Sometimes the simple things can have the greatest positive impact. If you start to feel like you've had to battle your negativity or anxiety more and more often, give yourself a small reward for sticking to your guns and not allowing the anxiety take over. Go out to a movie with some friends or enjoy a night out. Decide to put your anxiety on hold for the evening, and just enjoy your time off. Dealing with anxiety can often be a full-time job, and it's not one that you benefit from.

If you're seriously down in the dumps, take a moment to evaluate how far you've come, and how much you've managed to accomplish. Don't focus on the negative or berate yourself for the times where you may have come up short and not lived up to your own expectations. We're often harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else, but this increases your anxiety - not lessens it. Allow yourself to feel vulnerable or frightened but don't let it take over. Recognize that you're still in control and that you are fully capable of putting a smile on your face and facing the day - regardless of how it ends up.

Fake it Until You Make It:
While it's normally not advisable to fake something or pretend that you're something or someone you're not, sometimes it's ultimately going to be the key to your success - especially when it comes to anxiety. You are a human being, and as such you're not perfect. No one expects you to be perfect except for you. It's okay to mess up sometimes, and it's okay to admit that you were wrong. It's okay to fall short of your own goals from time to time - especially if the goals you set for yourself were unreasonable. Before setting goals, imagine if you'd set them for someone else. Chances are, you'd set much different goals for someone else than you would for yourself. Try to relax the standards you've set for yourself and make your goals more realistic. You can always push yourself farther when you've reached your initial mark and you don't have to beat yourself up if you fall short.

Everyone has days when they feel as though they simply can't get out of bed in the morning. If we all gave in to those urges every time they came up, a lot of us would simply be unable to function on a daily basis. Instead of giving into the urge to hermit yourself in your safe place at home, decide to face the world. Getting out there is often the last thing we want to do - which means it's probably exactly what we SHOULD do. It's okay to push your own boundaries and allow yourself some opportunities for growth. Remind yourself that you're taking on the world today on your own terms, and recognize that you can always go back home if you start to feel too uneasy. You're likely to have a good time, regardless of your anxiety, and you'll probably be glad that you gave it a shot when all is said and done.


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    • StegToDiffer profile image

      Spunk Nellie 

      6 years ago from New York, NY

      Very good advice. Social anxiety is a difficult thing to deal with. Good for you helping out some others out there with the disorder! Upvoted and followed!

    • BryceBeale profile image

      Bryce Beale 

      6 years ago from Evansville, Indiana

      Excellent, excellent, excellent. For some reason it's encouraging just to know that you are not the only one who deals with insecurity and discouragement. I heard someone talk about the danger of the downward spiral: something turns out poorly so you don't feel motivated, and because you don't feel motivated you neglect your responsibilities, which means other things turn out poorly, so you feel more discouraged.

      Liked your last point especially.

    • JMcFarland profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      That's so true. It's easier sometimes to let the negativity get you down, but ultimately you're the only person that can pull yourself out.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      This is so true, I especially like the idea of giving yourself a lift. It starts from you and ends with you. The moment you need a quick pick up, by all means lift your spirit.


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