A Simple Technique to Manage Anxiety and Stop Habitual Worry



 Author:  John D. Thomas 3 August 2017 Copyright 2017

It's your choice what you think about each day.  And what you think about naturally affects how you feel. If you choose to think about something that makes you happy, then you'll feel happy. Likewise, if you think about something that makes you feel sad, then you'll feel sad. The truth is that worry and anxiety can be controlled. 

So what causes habitual anxiety and worry?  Anxiety and worry are the result of a pattern of thought about a situation that create strong feelings of fear and apprehension.  Now fear is a normal human response in reaction to a perceived (real or potential) threat.  We call this the "Fight or Flight" response.  This response is triggered by the release of hormones which activate the body's sympathetic nervous system. This system is designed to prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or to quickly flee to safety. If you perceive that you are strong enough to fight and win, your sympathetic nervous system triggers emotions such as anger and aggression (a defense mechanism).  In contrast, if you determine that you cannot fight and win, your body's sympathetic nervous system triggers the emotion of fear.  You'll feel the the instinctive need to flee to safety.  However, if you are unable to flee from a situation, you will be filled with feelings of anxiety and worry. 

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This fight or flight response plays a critical role in how you deal with stress. While the fight or flight response is automatic, it is not always a useful instinct. Sometimes your mind activates the fight or flight response even when there is no actual danger. Particularly troublesome is the activation of the fight or flight response when you think about a possible future situation that may… or may not ever actually occur.  Long-term, persistent anxiety and habitual worry often indicates you have an overactive Fight or Flight response.  When this occurs, you may have trouble controlling your fears and seeing them in a more realistic perspective.

The good news is that if you change your patterns of thought, you can manage anxiety and significantly reduce (if not stop) worry. Here are actions you can take to deal with long-term anxiety and habitual worry: 

  • First, recognize you are feeling anxious, don’t try avoid or deny it. The biggest mistake you can make is to try and avoid it. Denial will not solve the situation. 
    • Second, evaluate and rate your level of anxiety at the time it is happening.  You can use a "1 to 10" rating to evaluate your anxiety. Doing this helps you put your feelings into proper perspective.  If you have been captured by a terrorist group and face imminent execution, that's a 10.  But if you are stuck in traffic, that's probably a 1 or 2. Putting situations into a more accurate perspective is an essential step for dealing with anxiety and worry.  
    • Third, realize that feelings of anxiety and worry are not continuous.  These feelings come and go.  They also vary in intensity.  You have to power to make these feelings go down in intensity and duration. If you think your anxiety will get more intense and will never go away, you're right. But you’re also right if you think your anxiety will subside and will soon go away. It's your choice. How you think affects how you feel. When you recognize this simple fact, you gain the power to bring your feelings under your own control.  Ask yourself this question, "If you are not in control of your own thoughts and feelings, then who is?"     
    • Fourth,  identify what specifically is triggering your feelings of anxiety and worry. A good way to do this is to ask yourself, "What was I thinking that made me begin to feel anxious?"  If you do this every time you are having anxiety and worry, you'll begin to see a pattern. This pattern are your thought triggers.  Many people find it helpful to create a "Thought Journal."  In your Thought Journal list those thoughts associated with the onset of anxiety and worry. Include information such as the date, time, location, and activities you were involved in at the onset of the anxiety and worry. If you do this, you'll soon identify your thought triggers that bring on feelings of anxiety and worry. 
    • Fifth, create a series of positive thought patterns you can use to counteract and soothe anxiety / worry triggers. Creating and using a series of positive thought patterns helps to stimulate feelings of calm and relief. If you put forth the effort to deliberately think more positively, you'll gain relief from the effects of negative thought triggers. Start and use a "Positivity Journal."  Each day begin noticing and writing down ten positive things that happen to you. Doing this will help you to take note of and remember good things happening in your life. Thinking about and focusing upon these good things helps you create positive thought patterns. Once you have created these positive thought patterns, practice using them often. 

      Remember, you have a choice about your patterns of thought.  What you think about directly affects the emotions you feel. Make a choice to create new, uplifting patterns of thought. Deliberately focus on the good and positive things in your life.  Allow these new positive, uplifting thoughts to displace those old, self-defeating, anxious thoughts.  Doing this will make all the difference! 


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