Part 2: Is this normal worry, or anxiety?
Anxiety can be overwhelming and feel as though it has taken over your life. Training your body and brain to relax is not an easy process, but with the help of your support system or a licensed counselor you can learn to challenge illogical thought processes, relax physically, and start to overcome your anxiety.
There are several techniques you can use to begin to combat anxiety and help yourself manage your symptoms. While these are helpful tools, they are not a replacement for a consultation with a trained professional; if you’re really struggling, reach out for help.
Practice deep breathing and progressive relaxation exercises.
Focusing in on your breath and your body can help to stall the running commentary of negative thoughts and worries and put you physically and mentally in the moment. Providing your brain something concrete and noticeable to focus on, such as your breath or consciously flexing and relaxing your muscles, can help to still your thoughts while taking deep breaths actually slows your heart rate and calms your nervous system. Practice this when feeling calm to start to train your body and mind to relax on command, and it will be more effective later on when you are in a stressful or anxiety-provoking situation.
Consciously challenge your thought processes.
Part of managing anxiety is getting to know your own thought processes, and walking yourself through them in order to challenge illogical or negative thoughts. It can help to speak specific thoughts out loud or write them down, and you might surprise yourself at how different they appear when they are no longer just in your head. Try to look at all sides of situations, rather than just the negative or scary side, and repeat the process as many times as necessary.
Get to know your triggers.
Recognize the things that always provoke anxiety for you, and go into those situations with a plan of how you are going to deal with them. If there is a trigger that no matter the amount of preparation, you just can’t handle, give yourself permission to avoid it for a brief and specific period of time until you work up to a place where you feel strong enough in your skills to approach it again.
Cut yourself some slack.
Dealing with anxiety is difficult. There will be days when you feel completely in control, and days when the anxiety takes over and you feel as though you’ve made no progress at all. Try to encourage yourself like you would encourage a close friend, and allow yourself to make mistakes and try again. We are all works in progress, and showing yourself just a little kindness and grace can go a long way to smoothing the process.