Worry Less and Understand More
Anxiety is an everyday occurrence, even for the most confident of individuals.
After all, a brave woman is not she who has no fear, but she who overcomes her fear.
That said, aside from the obvious cases where a bit of anxiety is natural and helps to induce caution, what can we do when anxiety hinders our ability to live a happy life?
Let’s find out!
What Is Anxiety? A Few Definitions.
The American Psychological Association gives the following definition of anxiety:
Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. Anxiety is not the same as fear, but is often used interchangeably. Anxiety is considered a future-oriented, long-acting response broadly focused on a diffuse threat, whereas fear is an appropriate, present-oriented, and short-lived response to a clearly identifiable and specific threat.
Leslie Sokol, Ph.D. and Marci G. Fox, Ph.D., provide the following definition:
Anxiety is an adaptive biological response that arises when we are facing dangerous situations. It equips us to face difficult and challenging conditions and prevents harm….it is nature’s internal alarm system….According to the cognitive model of anxiety, anxiety disorders are all associated with an exaggerated perception of threat and an undervaluation of resources.
Anxiety Can Be Cumulative
What we mean by cumulative is that anxiety can come from multiple sources.
Let’s look at a few hypothetical examples to see what is meant by this:
You want to ask a person you like out but are feeling anxious and trembling.
Maybe you’re worried they won’t like the way you dress, or how your breath smells, that they already have a partner, or they might be having a bad day and aren’t up to accepting any advances from anyone.
Whether it be a job interview, meeting new people, or other anxiety-provoking situations, there are many factors contributing to the overwhelming feeling of anxiety.
One of these factors is something we all experience on an overwhelmingly frequent basis - stress.
Like anxiety, stress is a normal response to distressing situations.
Evolutionarily, a level of high alertness, or fight or flight, makes sense when you’re being chased by a bear or lion out in the wild.
But as reasonable as it can be, this type of stress over prolonged periods of time can really weaken and wreck the body and mind.
So, What’s The Solution?
Anxiety comes from expecting potentially negative events in our lives, as well as a lack of confidence in one’s abilities to respond to them.
The general solution comes as two answers then.
The first one is to account for the unpredictability and plan out as much as we can.
Obviously, we can’t predict the future, but just like you move a mountain by carrying the stones first, little habits can lead to sustainable changes over time.
Creating a flexible but clear schedule helps to create quantifiable, measurable progress and avoids finding yourself in a situation where there is a high level of uncertainty. Creating structure also supports productivity, which leads to feelings of accomplishment and can support positive self-esteem.
The second major factor is confidence, whether it be our looks, charms, competency, or whatever. When we do not believe we are capable, it affects our ability to even attempt a particular task or experience.
Life throws many challenging experiences at us all, and it is not uncommon to have tough experiences that cause our self-confidence to fluctuate. However, our perception of these experiences can really affect the levels of anxiety we experience and our belief in our capabilities during future experiences.
You can be loved and admired, but sometimes that may never seem enough, especially if you’ve engrained this idea in your mind that you’re never good enough.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that although it may be hard, it’s certainly not impossible to change.
Physical exercise, fostering a relationship with people who support you and do not demean you, and focusing more on one’s skills are all great and proven ways to build actual and not inflated confidence in yourself.
There can be crashes and relapses that make us think it’s all going nowhere, but that’s completely normal.
Progress is slow but certain - “two steps forward, one step back,” as they say.
And of course, if anxiety is above a certain level, including, but not limited to panic attacks, one should contact a mental health professional and get the support necessary for their specific situation. If it is affecting your daily functioning, this can be a clue that it may be time to get some additional support.
Tips to Help with Anxiety
So, what can we do to ease anxiety and improve our mental health? The answer is not a one size fits all, but there are some general tips that may be helpful for many people.
First, it’s important to identify and understand your personal triggers for anxiety.
Once you know what sets off your anxious reaction, you can start developing strategies to deal with those triggers.
Second, make time for self-care. This may include practices like meditation, journaling, or exercise.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. Friends, family members, and professionals can all provide support in different ways.
We hope this article has provided some useful information on anxiety and its relief.
If you have any questions or would like more advice specific to your situation, please feel free to reach out!
American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety
The Comprehensive Clinician’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Leslie Sokol, Ph.D. and Marci G. Fox Ph.