5 proven strategies to overcome anxiety
Anxiety is such a common thing in today’s world.
Im sure almost every one alive has battled anxiety at some point. Most people battle it every day.
Let's think about it like a game. The object is to win. Here are the top strategies that will give you the best chance of overcoming anxiety in your life.
1. Examine the story you are living out of
Did you know that anxiety needs a story in order to survive. Therefore, the aim of the game is to live out of a story where to be anxious just doesn't make sense.
Contrary to popular opinion, anxiety is not a condition that you simple have to survive or endure. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. You are not broken. What’s more, the source of your anxiety is not strange, random or unknowable.
There is always a reason, an underlying belief, a fear or insecurity that has created the anxiety response to something in your reality.
So, of course you are anxious. What did you expect? I'm not being critical, but simply stating that emotion always flows out of belief. What must you believe about your life, your situation or yourself in order to be anxious right now?
If there was no limiting belief, then it just doesn’t make any sense to be anxious.
Anxiety always flows from a story of inadequacy. At a deep level you are insecure about not being enough for the challenges you are facing. This leaves you feeling incapable of doing what needs to be done and then the only thing left to do it be anxious.
Taking the time to examine the story you are living out of gives you the ability to gain self awareness about the cause of your anxiety. With this awareness always comes more choice. You can’t change what you can’t see. Rather than trying to overcome the anxiety with behaviour management strategies, you are now able to change the underling belief producing the emotion in the first place.
The cool thing is that you are not just an actor in the story of your life, you are the story teller. If you don't like your current story, only you have the power to write a new one.
What would you need to believe right now in order to be feeling calm, confident and in control of your results?
What must those who are already living free from anxiety believe?
2. Only focus on the next thing.
Former Australian opening batsman Justin Langer defines mental toughness as the ability to just focus on the next thing. The last ball has already passed and the fast bowler you are afraid of is not on until the next over, but right now all you need to focus on is the very next ball. Be totally present for the next thing.
When I am worried about the challenges of tomorrow before I go to sleep, my simple instruction to myself is to focus on the next thing I need to do – which is to get some peaceful sleep. Once I have completed that job, I’m allowed to focus on the next thing I need to do. One thing at a time. With this strategy, there is no room for anxiety. It simply doesn't make any sense to be anxious if all I am focused on is the current task right in front of me and I believe that I am capable of completing it successfully. (The story I'm living out of)
The myth of multitasking
All the research around multitasking concludes that it is actually impossible. Our brain can only effectively focus on one thing at a time. While it may appear possible to listen to music and study simultaneously, your brain is either 100% focused on one or the other task. It is constantly switching. Every time it switches, it has to shut down the softwear program for one task and reload the softwear for the other task which as you can understand is actually very inefficient. Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. It causes mistakes, stress, lower productivity it even affects your memory.
Therefore, it is actually impossible to do anxiety and gratitude. or anxiety and decisiveness or even anxiety and anger. You have to chose a point of focus in order to run any of these strategies.
So what would you need to be focussed on to feel anxious right now?
What would you need to focus on to feel totally relaxed and confident?
You are entirely responsible for what you are paying attention to. Change your focus, and you change how you feel.
Being mindful is simply an exercise in paying attention to your own thoughts. It is about being an external observer to what is happening in your world rather than being caught up in the drama of it all. Dr David Peterson defines mindfulness as “Paying attention in a particular way on purpose in the present moment in a non-judgmental way” It is all about being totally present to the here and now. Anxiety is about focusing on past or future, mindfulness is about being here.
Mindfulness is to focus on one thing and to fully experience it. When the mind wonders, it needs to be brought back to that one thing. e.g. Breathing, an emotion, what the senses are experiencing, one thought, gratitude, mission, purpose. etc
3. Face up to life.
Every day we have countless opportunities to face up or run away from our reality. It turns out that every time we run away from the challenges of our life, we increase the levels of anxiety, while facing up ultimately allows us to live anxiety free.
Nathanial Brandon’s book the psychology of self-esteem, shows us how this works.
Life happens- Each new day presents new day presents new problems, challenges and opportunities. We then have a choice to face up or run away from the reality of our life. We can own, accept, confront, and take responsibility - or hide, blame, avoid, and pretend.
If we run away, we may escape our situation, but we take shame guilt and anxiety with us.
If we face up, no matter how hard it is, we actually get through to the other side and take strength, confidence, peace from the situation.
Every time we run we teach ourselves - 'I can’t. I don’t have what it takes and therefore need to keep running.' Facing up, on the other hand, teaches us - 'I can. I have what it takes to deal with life'
Running ends up creating a limiting belief that I am no good. I’m not enough. Facing up leads us to believe we are worthy, I am enough!
One path leads to poor self-esteem. The other healthy self esteem.
So...Do you want to feel good about yourself? Do you want to live anxiety free? If so, it is essential to face up to life. Every time you run away, you undermine your own self-esteem and lose the anxiety game.
4. Change your language
Susan Jeffers in her book “Embracing Uncertainty” says that if we tie our happiness to things working out the way we want, then we are perpetually tied to disappointment. Why tie happiness to things outside our control? It is still crucial to be very clear about what we want, but we need to work out how to be happy because of who you are, not just when things go the way we want them to.
To be anxiety free, it is crucial to cut the cord between your happiness and your outcomes. This starts with the language you use with yourself. - Your self talk.
I have two mantra's that I find particularly useful to win the game with anxiety: – “Whether this works out or not, I still deeply love and accept myself." ."All I need is within me now. I am a good person, a creative person, an intelligent person. I have no idea what will happen tomorrow, but when I get there I know I will work it out, just like I have every other day of my life till now." This means I am able to totally pour my best energy and effort into what I am doing and then let go of the need to control what is outside of my control. In this story, anxiety makes zero sense.
What if you couldn't call anxiety anxiety? What if that label was actually part of the problem. If you couldn't use that language, would it still be possible to have the same experience?
The words we use don't simply describe our experience of life - they shape it.
What if when you noticed your pulse racing, stomach tightening, palms sweating, adrenaline rising you stopped and asked "What for" instead?
Perhaps it is a signal from your subconscious preparing you for action? Maybe you've avoiding something that needs your attention? Maybe its a way of you becoming aware that you are now leaving your comfort zone, but you should keep going.
When you change your language, you also change your experience.
5. Let it go
Having used all these proven strategies, the only thing left to explore is whether or not you are in fact holding onto your anxiety because it is working for you.
Basic human psychology teaches that every single thing that we tolerate or complain about but do not change MUST be giving us some kind of reward.
I get that it is highly offensive and confronting to suggest that your anxiety could be working for you, yet if you are really serious about winning the game, you'll need to be prepared to consider this vital aspect of human behaviour.
Maybe anxiety gives you a chance to hide, gain pity, excuse poor behaviour, get angry at the world, withdraw from situations you feel insecure about? Maybe its something else, but if it really was giving you nothing, you would have found a way to let it go already.
So often people feel that the things that are causing them most grief in life are holding onto them, when really we are holding onto them.
My favourite example of this comes from “The Simpsons.” (season 5 Ep6)
On his way home from work to take Marge to the ballet, Homer ends up getting both hands stuck inside vending machines while trying to steal their contents.
The next scene the area is cordoned off and the fire brigade and emergency services are there to attempt the rescue.
Fireman: Mr Simpson, there is no easy way to say this, we’re going to have to saw your arms off.
Homer. Awww, but they’ll grow back won’t they?
Fireman: Yeah sure…They’ll grow back
Other Fireman “Ah…Homer, are you just holding onto the can?
We too have the power to set ourselves free by letting go of the can – The moment we are truly done with being anxious, we can let it go. We literally are that powerful.
If you are ready to really win at this game and you are ready to change your story, your focus, your language you sate and your strategy, make sure you take jump on the autumn 30 day coaching program starting the 30th of April.