We all know the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. Our hearts race, our fingers sweat, and our breathing gets shallow and labored. We experience racing thoughts about a perceived threat that we think is too much to handle. That’s because our “fight or flight” response has kicked in, resulting in sympathetic arousal and a narrowing of attention and focus on avoiding the threat. We seem to be locked in that state, unable to focus on our daily chores or longer-term goals. As a Cognitive-Behavior Therapist with more than 15 years of experience, I have found a variety of techniques that I can teach my patients with anxiety disorders such as phobias, panic attacks, or chronic worry. Some are based on changing thoughts, others on changing behavior, and still others involve physiological responses. The more aspects of anxiety I can decrease, the lower the chance of relapse post-therapy. Below are six strategies that you can use to help your anxiety:
(1) Reevaluating the probability of the threatening event actually happening
Anxiety makes us feel threat is imminent yet most of the time what we worry about never happens. By recording our worries and how many came true, we can notice how much we overestimate the prospect of negative events.
Even if a bad event happened, we may still be able to handle it by using our coping skills and problem-solving abilities or by enlisting others to help. Although not pleasant, we could still survive encountering a spider, having a panic attack, or losing money. It’s important to realize that very few things are the end of the world.
(3) Using deep breathing and relaxation to calm down
By deliberately relaxing our muscles we begin to calm down so we can think clearly. If you practice this without a threat present at first, it can start to become automic and will be easier to use in the moment when you face a threat. Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system to put the brakes on sympathetic arousal.
(4) Becoming mindful of our own physical and mental reactions
The skill of mindfulness involves calmly observing our own reactions, including fear, without panic or feeling compelled to act. It is something that can be taught in therapy and improves with practice.
(5) Accepting the Fear and Committing to Living a Life Based on Core Values
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach that encourages people to accept the inevitability of negative thoughts and feelings and not try to repress or control them. By directing attention away from the fear and back onto life tasks and valued goals, we can live a full life despite the fear.
Exposure is the most powerful technique for anxiety and it involves facing what we fear and staying in the situation long enough for the fear to habituate or go down, as it naturally does. Fear makes us avoid or run away, so our minds and bodies never learn that much of what we fear is not truly dangerous.
Written by: Melanie Greenberg
One of the biggest problems people face is the lack of discipline — they have goals or habits they want to achieve, but lack that discipline needed to stick with it.
Then we beat ourselves up about it. We feel crappy because we can’t stick with it.
And that leads to more failure, because we’re forming a mindset that we don’t have the necessary discipline.
Here’s what to do when you face a situation like this:
1. Forgive yourself. You aren’t perfect. No one is. Realize that beating yourself up will only make things worse. Take a few slow, deep breaths and let it go. Forgive yourself. And move on.
2. Realize that discipline is an illusion. While discipline is a common concept, it doesn’t actually exist. It’s not a thing you can actually do. Think about it: people say discipline is pushing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. But how do you do that? What skill is required? There isn’t a skill — it’s just forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. And that requires … some kind of motivation. Without motivation, you won’t be able to force yourself to do anything. So motivation is the key concept — and this is something that’s real, that you can actually learn how to do.
3. Focus on motivation. What’s your motivation for pursuing the goal or habit? How will you sustain the motivation when you struggle? Have very strong motivations for doing something, and write them down. Commit publicly. When things get tough, remind yourself of your motivation. Focus on it. It’ll pull you along — that’s more powerful than trying to focus on the push of discipline.
4. Make it easy. Discipline is tough because whatever the task or habit you’re trying to do is tough. Instead, make it easy. Remove barriers. Having a hard time exercising? Make it ridiculously easy, by only exercising for 5 minutes. What use is exercising for 5 minutes? You’re creating the habit, not getting yourself into shape overnight. The 5 minutes of exercise will have only a tiny impact on your health, but it makes exercise super easy. If you can do that 30 days in a row, you now have an exercise habit. Hate waking up early to go to the gym? Do it at home. Do it during lunch or after work.
5. Focus on enjoyment. It’s hard to push yourself — to have discipline — when you hate doing something. So find something enjoyable about the activity. If you don’t look forward to exercise, find some good music, or a workout partner who you can have a nice conversation with, or a peaceful setting in nature that is just beautiful. And focus on that enjoyable aspect. Hate doing your paperwork? Find a peaceful sanctuary where you can do the paperwork and enjoy yourself. Maybe have a nice cup of tea or coffee, play some nice music. And focus on the enjoyment.
6. Repeat. You’ll almost inevitably slip up sometime, no matter how good you are. Unfortunately, people often take this to mean they don’t have discipline, and they just beat themselves up and give up. Well, it’s just a bump in the road. Get up, dust yourself off, and get going again. Start from Step 1 and start all over.
Written By: Leo Babauta