Giving Anxiety a Kick in the Butt

I’ve noticed that anxiety tends to get me down, or sometimes on the flip-side, its gets me frantically running all over the place. It’s one of the emotions that I hate the most. Whenever I’m about to venture out of my comfort zone, I would notice that familiar bubbling of anxiety wrecking havoc somewhere inside the vessel of my tummy. If it’s a pretty big issue, I might even consider emotionally that the entire day is ruined. That’s because the time spent contemplating the dreaded activity is so uncomfortable, I can barely enjoy myself doing anything else. In search for the solution for this irritating problem, I’ve found some solutions that just don’t work, or at their best, are simply temporary, feel-good fixes:1) Positive thinking

I’m referring to thinking that everything is going to turn out well, and that it will work out for the best of everyone in the end, regardless of the reality of things. While it’s pretty darn effective on an immediate basis, it just isn’t my cup of tea.It can definitely turn around my mood, but then the anxiety quickly comes back and I would feel as if the time spent daydreaming was well-wasted when I could be doing something productive instead.

2) Denial

Burying myself in fun activities, or work, and hoping to pass time until the critical moment of needing to foray out of my comfort zone comes around. Usually it doesn’t work because there will still be an underlying feeling of dread beneath the hustle and bustle.  I end up being unable to concentrate on what I’m supposed to do most of the time, and the issue of anxiety isn’t really resolved.

3) Chatting up friends

Sometimes chatting with friends might make things feel better for awhile, but if they are busy, or unable to help you calm down, your anxiety might pile up and things will get worse from there. Think of it as a multiplier effect. While they can help you feel much better, at times they may also feel even worse, and to an extended degree even.

However, after fumbling around and experimenting with different methods, there are some solutions that do seem to work:

1) Breaking down the problem

If there’s an activity that makes me uncomfortable, I need to find out why. I ask myself questions: Is it because I’m not prepared for it? Is it because I need more time to adjust? Is this something that I can change now, or I can only change then? I will sit down and consider what’s actually bugging me. By analyzing my fears, sometimes I learn that there is nothing to fear at all. Considering the worse case scenario and evaluating consequences, while planning for contingencies, is one very good method to get over your jittery spirit. Not only do you get clarity on the issue, you can also start to work towards a progressive solution. And more often than not, in your evaluations, you’ll realize even if the worse thing happens, life just moves on, so there is really nothing to fear or be anxious about.

2) Do something that helps alleviate the problem

In the case where there is actually something for you to do to reduce anxiety, do it. For instance, if too much work is bogging you down, and you fear that you won’t be able to return from your uncomfortable event on time or in the right state to complete them, then do your work now. The absolute necessity of getting those activities completed should help you laser-focus your mind instead of having it flutter and hustle everywhere. When the anxiety-causing event comes round, it probably won’t even feel like a big deal by then.

3) Promise yourself a reward

Instead of denying that something is difficult or uncomfortable for you, or trying to get the reward before going through it (i.e. positive thinking), you can promise yourself a simple reward for having completed something. It could be a cup of coffee that you loved, but have been putting of having because it’s out of the way and you haven’t found the right occasion, or it could be just some quiet time alone with your kitten instead of being bogged down by work or family needs. Promise yourself a reward, and the journey will be far more worth to travel.

That being said, it’s not wrong to employ some of those temporary fixes once in awhile. Under stress, your limbic system tends to go out of whack and you may receive more flight or fight signals than necessary. You will actually need that bit of positive thinking, or fun activities, and friends especially, to relax your emotional mind. When relaxed, your brain will release GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) which should help to calm down the crazy limbic firing. When that happens, you will be able to engage more of your pre-frontal cortex (the planning part of your brain) to calmly analyze your situation and consider what actions to take and how exactly to go about it. This planning phase is very important as unlike plain ol’ positive thinking, it helps you actually get to where you want to be. So the key to moving with anxiety is to first calm yourself down, and then assess your situation. Finally take concrete steps to relieve your anxiety, and you should be able to face your fears head on!

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