Anxiety, unfortunately, is a bit of an irrational disorder and struggle. The problem is, we know it’s irrational but we still can’t change the thoughts in the moment of extremely anxious thoughts or a panic attack. However, there are five ways you can begin working to beat your anxiety to help put it behind you.
1. Write down harmful thoughts
I’m not a big fan of the word “journaling”. I think it leads to thoughts of somebody sitting at a table with sad music playing in the background, tears streaming down their face writing down every sad thought that’s ever entered their mind.
However, there is a lot of benefit of keeping a daily log of the thoughts that are causing you trouble. Anxiety can come out of nowhere. It’s important to recognize those triggers as that can help you understand how to prevent them. Whenever you start feeling anxious with no apparent reason, begin thinking over your last few thoughts.
If you can catch them, you can examine and challenge the irrational thoughts that cause anxiety.
Writing them down allows you to keep a record so that you can examine their frequency, the timing, and any patterns that might exist.
2. Challenge those thoughts
After you’ve spent some time writing down those thoughts, you can begin the process of challenging them. It’s not much help for you to just write them down and do nothing with those.
See, the problem, is that our anxious brains are incredibly unreliable at judging those situations. Our brains will set off every alarm, and yet we still have trouble attaching those thoughts to the physical sensations that come with anxiety.
Some thoughts will be easier than others to challenge. No matter how difficult, though, challenge everything you have written down.
3. Find solutions in your thinking
Most of the thinking we do is what’s called “solution-oriented”. That means when we think of a problem, set-back or issue, our mind automatically searches for a solution to a problem. For instance, if you can’t find your car keys, your next logical step is to begin looking for them. This usually happens without much thought. You realize that if you want to find your keys, you must look for them. Seldom do we sit in a puddle of our own tears because we can’t find the keys — so why do we do that over other issues that cause us anxiety?
When we refuse to focus on solutions, we’re doing nothing more than overthinking. This overthinking, many times, is what leads to panic attacks and feelings of being sad or depressed.
Whenever we engaged in non-solution-oriented thinking, we’re essentially manufacturing our own unhappiness. Nothing good comes from obsessing about things we cannot control.
“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” -Psalm 61:2
If you find yourself overthinking often, begin asking yourself what the solutions to your situation is. It is important to remember that obsessing over a problem isn’t always unhealthy. Sometimes big issues require a lot of thought. You certainly shouldn’t go out and buy and new house on a whim. Deciding to get a new job should take some time. As long as your goal is problem-solving and finding solutions, your thoughts are just fine.
4. Accept your anxiety
Trying to fight, avoid or struggle against anxious feelings is only going to make them worse.
Trying to oppose anxiety naturally means investing time into thinking about anxiety, or doing everything you can to avoid thinking about it. It requires time and energy that could be better spent cultivating positivity.
The healthiest course of action is to accept and observe what we’re feeling, but without reacting and becoming emotionally invested. The truth is that anxiety is not something negative, and it’s not something we have to fight or hate. It just is.
5. Get to know your anxiety
Understand and actively seek more knowledge — not only about anxiety in general — but specifically about your own anxiety. There are a wealth of topics to research, such as reading books, following blogs, joining support groups, and writing about your own experiences.
The idea is that through immersion in the subject, a resilience toward anxiety will naturally develop. You’ll begin to learn that it’s easier to handle a panic attack if you know it’s not a heart attack. You’ll realize it’s easier to accept and face anxiety without fear if you know what it is. And it’s easier to cope if you have a support network that knows what you’re going through.
Of course, it’s important to remember you don’t have to fight this battle alone. There’s no shame in reaching out for professional help when necessary.