What is anxiety?
Anxiety is your mind and body trying to PROTECT you from unexpected hurt and harm. Anxiety is your mind’s way of ALERTING you and ‘preparing’ you to act in accordance with an unfavorable situation.
But how does knowing this help?
Once you know this, you stop ‘fearing’ anxiety.
Once you know this, you understand ‘why’ you feel anxious.
Once you know this, you get why anxiety is not supposed to harm you.
Once you know this, you realize that your fear of anxiety is sometimes the bigger problem, than the anxiety itself.
Why do you get anxious?
In the Stone Age, humans would only feel anxious about two life and death issues (BECAUSE HUMANS FEAR DEATH THE MOST)- wild animals and the weather.
When you only have two major aspects of your life that you have to stay wary and cautious about, anxiety is manageable.
However, today, when everything around seems to be a life and death situation- it is obvious that the mind will not be able to take on all this stress and nervousness. The human mind was never built for all of this.
The mind was built to have a work-life balance, a lot of love and calm. The mind was built to stay in nature, not in front of devices and in the middle of constant technological interventions. The mind was not built for social media, terrorism, cancel culture, pollution, traffic, office politics, relationship conflicts, multiple pandemics/ epidemics, the recession, mishaps, accidents and all other forms of unexpected hurt and harm.
So, how do you manage anxiety IN THE MOMENT?
Step 1- You remind yourself about WHY you feel anxious (go back to ‘what is anxiety’ above).
Step 2- You remind yourself that not everything can/ will lead to death (go back to ‘why do we feel anxious’ above).
Step 3- Take deep breaths, unclench your jaws + muscles, drink water & temporarily distract yourself.
Step 4- Use anxiety coping tools (visualization, using stress balls, a blanket, talk to a friend etc).
Step 5- You challenge your thoughts and try to rationalize with yourself (Think of bringing down the intensity of your anxiety like reducing the speed of a fan via the regulator).
And how do you manage anxiety IN THE LONG RUN?
To reduce panic & crisis situations:
Step 1- Go to therapy to understand your causes of fear, hurt, disappointment + symptoms + triggers (anxiety is mostly a symptom, not the actual cause). Therapy gives you a safe space and a professional platform to understand yourself better.
Step 2- Practice relaxing your nervous system EVERYDAY (through deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, walks in nature, staying close to people you trust, journaling, art etc).
Step 3- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other substances.
Step 4- Psychoeducate yourself through books, research papers, videos and other trusted sources of information.
Step 5- Move your body EVERYDAY (any form of physical exercise you like).
Step 6- SLEEP for at least 7 hours each night- there is no substitute for rest.
Step 7- Stay hydrated and eat a homemade balanced diet for most days.
Now, is anxiety “controllable”?
Some anxiety is good (it keeps us alive, helps us work, cook, take care of ourselves & people around or else you would have no reason to shower or eat) and the other is ‘termed’ bad (the one that makes you feel helpless, hopeless & breathless- sometimes even freezes us).
However, both the forms are SUPPOSED to help you stay alive (survival of the fittest concept).
Remember- most humans fear death the most.
Ideally if anxiety helps us stay alive (like breathing, digesting, blood circulation etc)… does it make sense to “control” it? Not really.
What makes sense, is to MANAGE it.. What is the difference though you ask? The difference is to treat it like a friend and not like an enemy.
You MANAGE working with a person you do not like, you do not hate them like an enemy (else working with them becomes impossible). So, remind yourself you CAN take care of yourself- gradually when your anxiety understands that you will protect yourself (and not die), gradually it stops bothering you.
How long can this take?
This process of understanding your anxiety and managing it can take many weeks to a few years. It depends on you, your personality, your past experiences, the intensity and frequency of your anxiety- all in all your symptoms AND the causes..
What do you need the most throughout the process?
Patience, compassion and love for yourself + for the process.. You deserve it. 🙂
If you are an Indian adult looking for mental health counselling/ psychotherapy, visit the calendar to book sessions.
Take good care
Until next time 🙂
Disclaimer: This article does not refer to severe mental illnesses or personality and mood disorders.