Racing thoughts, shortness of breath, tight chest… Any of this ringing a bell? Over 40 million people in the world have mental illness, with many of them battling anxiety.
We all encounter stress at some point in our lives, but learning to manage it is easier said than done.
I struggled with anxiety for the better part of my high school and college years. Along the way, I learnt a lot of techniques to overcome the issue.
Today, I will walk you down to the various steps that you need to take to end your anxiety and take your life back:
1. The foundation
Let’s start with the basics first, why do you think you are feeling anxious? Grab a pen and a paper and make a list of all the things that are making you feel this way.
Are finances the primary cause? Or maybe work and family? Jot all these down and then read over them.
I want you to feel the anxiety, let your mind these triggers so that you can identify where the anxiety is coming from and when you can expect it.
2. Facing the triggers
The key step to getting better is to understand your anxiety. Remember the list you just made? Start from the top of the list and read through it again. Now that you’ve identified your triggers, it’s time to face them head on. Look at them and realize you have power over them. If finances are your trigger, recognize that you have the power to cut expenses or hustle to earn more. Or if it’s work issues, recognize that you have the power to quit and change jobs, if there is no other resolution, and that no one has chained you to your desk.
Start small and work your way up to the trigger that affects you the most. Visualize each trigger and get to the moment where you start to panic and lose it. It may sound scary, but when each moment occurs, I want you to step back and observe your reaction as if you were floating outside of your body.
Ask yourself if the reaction your having is rational. If it’s a problem your facing now, is it truly unsolvable?
Trust me when I say that there are better things to focus your energy than this panic. If you agree with this, then you are on the right track to regaining your freedom.
3. Taking action
If you agree with the above, you’re now ready to take action and tackle each stressor one by one.
This step may take a little longer, as it requires manual action on your part. But as you start to take action and control over each stressor, you’ll start to feel lighter as your burden lessens, making it easier to tackle the next one, and giving you more motivation to keep going.
Going back to the finance example, imagine the feeling of getting a pay rise, and finally balancing the budget!
Whatever you’re going through, picture yourself at the other end, after successfully overcoming it, then take action to get there.
4 is the acceptance stage. No matter how rosy someone’s life is, at some point they’ll face a situation that brings them anxiety.
Almost counterintuitively, in order to get rid of your anxiety, you have to accept that at some point it’s inevitable, and even healthy to have.
Don’t be ashamed of this. Recognize that you’re human and not an emotionless robot, and that in order to appreciate the good, sometimes you need to overcome the bad.
Acceptance is also about managing these bad emotions. When you are in a moment of stress, take a deep breath acknowledge the fact that you currently have anxiety. Don’t ignore it, follow the above steps to understand and tackle it, and always remember that since they’re your emotions, you have control over them, not the other way around.
5. Keeping busy
The last 4 steps will help you get rid of current sources of anxiety, but you need to be able to prevent new ones from appearing. I do this by keeping busy.
You can enroll in self-development programs to better yourself and build confidence, or you can get a hobby to start enjoying life again.
I do a mix to prevent negative thoughts, show myself the rewards of living life, and to build confidence in my ability to tackle new stressors if they arise.
I overcame anxiety by following the above steps.
The ride wasn’t a walk in the park, but if you follow these five steps and learn to love yourself, you might get there too.