Anxiety can be felt due to many reasons- stress in different areas of life, changes in living arrangements, body changes, family and relationship problems, traumatic events, death or a host of other reasons which can lead you to experiencing anxiety.
Anxiety can feel dominating, as if your life is designed around it, leaving you overwhelmed and hopeless to manage it. However, you don’t have to feel that all hope is lost regarding overcoming it. There are things that you can do to improve your management of anxiety. Importantly by acknowledging that it exists and that at times experiencing anxiety is a natural part of life can help you to manage it.
Below are some steps to help you take better management of your anxiety. 1 Corinthians 10:13 gives encouragement about us being able to handle even the things that we think we cannot.
1. Shift thinking from catastrophic to rational
It is tempting to think that if you struggle with anxiety, especially if it is frequently- you will always struggle with it. It can become easy to catastrophize about your future, assuming that the worst thing you fear will happen. If you feel threatened or perceived a threat, you may believe you will not be able to handle your worst fear happening. When you assume you will be unable to handle your worst fear, that can lead to feelings of hopelessness arising.
Instead of going deep into the rabbit hole of your worst-case scenario fears, attempt to be flexible in your thinking. While it is true that it is possible that the worst-case fear may occur, it also is possible that the bad thing you fear happening, doesn’t happen. But if the bad thing does in fact happen, maybe there is something that you may be able to do to make the situation more manageable. And the truth is there is actually a possibility that something good could even happen.
Proverbs 3:5 to 6 gives encouragement to help us remember that ultimately if we put our trust in God, he will direct our way and guide us. He will take care of us more than we can imagine and that includes caring for more than just our little desires, but even our greatest fears.
So rather than focusing in on the possible wrongs that could occur, aim to shift your focus on how you could cope with challenging situations that arise. Prepare for them by anticipating how you could handle if the situation occurs. When you focus on reflecting on more helpful and realistic thoughts it can help you better face situations that you would normally avoid due to fear.
2. Take small steps towards your fear to minimize anxiety
Anxiety leads to avoidance for many people. However, avoidance consistently can lead to a habit which becomes harder to stop over time. While you may feel better in the short term due to avoiding something that creates feelings of discomfort, in the long run it will hinder you from progressing and achieving needed change. If you make a habit of avoiding uncomfortable situations, it could make it easier to avoid other uncomfortable situations which will ultimately stunt your growth.
Rather than forcing yourself to finally get it or move past what you were afraid of, try taking small steps to reaching the goal that you have for yourself, which may be to face your fear of (_____fill in the blanks). Begin by making the smallest change you know you can make, that would be meaningful for you. Prepare for that change whether mentally, physically or otherwise and make a commitment to achieve your goal.
Once you achieve that small step, you will feel good, and it will serve as a reinforcer for the next small step. Continuing forward step-by-step – you will get closer to your goal. Being consistent is important so consistently work towards your goal, making small steps, and that will give you the courage to keep moving forward. When you do achieve your goal that will serve as a motivation for addressing your other fears. So as the saying goes, practice, practice, practice. Whenever you have the opportunity, practice – take a small step. When that’s done take another small step.
3. Accept your anxiety and redirect your thoughts
Anxiety does not need to dominate your life. Accepting that it is there when it arrives is important because once you acknowledge it, that allows you to be in a position to do something about it. Noticing the feelings that arise when you’re feeling anxious – the mental thoughts, the physical sensations, the dis “ease”, lets you know something is not right. Maybe anxiety will arrive when there is a real threat or a perceived threat- notice it and attempt to understand why it’s there, including feelings of no or limited control that come up with it.
After you take some time to do that, focus on something else more important to attend to. For example, is there some action that needs to be taken or doing something difficult? Or is there something that you can do that allows you to feel calm? Such as listening to music, taking a deep breath, going for a walk, exercising, reading a book, or something else that you enjoy? Putting into practice this coping strategy can help you to learn how to feel lighter from anxiety. Philippians 4:6-9 gives great instruction on what things to focus on that can give you calm when you are feeling anxious. Check it out and see if and how it works for you.
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