How to overcome anxiety

(so you can move forward in life)

Overthinking might get us stuck, but over-worrying will paralyze us. When we stress about unknown consequences, too many options, limited time and money, our anxiety over the results (ironically) stops us from making progress. And we may not even realize we're doing it. Here are four common ways we let dread block our paths.

I'm not ready. Similar to procrastination, you wait until you're fully prepared to pull the trigger. The thing is, you never are. There's always one more thing to fret over.

But what if? Your head swims with all the ways it can go horribly wrong, leaving you frozen with fear when it comes time to act.

It didn't work before. Reliving negative experiences can make you want to turn back after every step forward to avoid failing again.

Controlling the uncontrollables. Sometimes you stop seeing the difference between what you can change and what you can't. As a result, you waste energy worrying about circumstances outside of your purview.

9 tips to stop anxiety before it stops you

1

Write down all the "what if"s in your mind and have a friend cross out the scenarios that are too far-fetched to ever happen.

2

Categorize your worries into items you can change and items you can't. Let go of the latter so you can focus on what is in your control.

3

Flip how you think about failure. Each failed attempt can bring you closer to success if you look for the lessons.

4

Let go of perfection. For every negative "what if" possibility you've imagined, counter it with a positive "what if" to cancel out the fear.

5

Learn your anxiety triggers. Keep a record of each time you feel stressed and look for patterns. What's triggering your stress? How can you confront or work around it?

6

Get plenty of sleep. Not getting enough sleep compromises our decision-making and leaves us more vulnerable to emotions like anxiety.

7

Find a safe place to test-run the activity that makes you anxious. If you're dreading a hard conversation, practice with a friend. Rehearse at least five times.

8

When you're in an anxiety-inducing situation, try to give yourself little breaks, like getting a drink of water, walking around the block, or even doing mild stretches.

9

Sometimes, we don't even notice we're anxious. Build in time during your day to breathe deeply as a way to banish the hidden stress.

Modern-day anxiety — and what to do about it

According to Slate.com, people in developed nations are five times more likely than people in developing nations to be diagnosed with clinical anxiety, even though we face fewer environmental threats than ever before. What makes us so anxious in the 21st century?

A decline in social interactions, as described in Robert Putnam’s book “Bowling Alone.” Sound familiar? Join a club or commit to a weekly group activity to boost your social capital.

The accelerating pace of change in our lives. We feel stress in new situations no matter how often it happens — and it’s happening more often. Sound familiar? Anchor your life with relaxing routines or meditation.

The massive quantity of data we consume each day, from the 24-hour news cycle to our own social media pages. Sound familiar? Take a few hours each week, or each day if possible, to unplug.

Our cultural emphasis on always feeling good. We magnify our anxiety by beating ourselves up when we feel stressed or negative. Sound familiar? Give yourself permission to have an off day once in a while.

How to calm anxiety in the moment

Conquering the cause of anxiety takes time, while symptoms persist. When panic strikes, try these simple tricks to refocus and calm down.

  • Reset your mind by focusing on another sensation, like the feel of the ground under your feet.
  • Ask yourself if your negative thoughts are rational.
  • Breathe deeply, starting at the bottom of your stomach.
  • Find a quiet space and talk to yourself, using calming and encouraging words.

If anxiety makes it difficult to function, please talk with your doctor.

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