How To Reduce Anxiety


How To Reduce Anxiety

I used to struggle mightily with social and generalized anxiety. There were times when I didn’t want to get out of bed for fear of the social interactions that I’d be required to have in my day to day movements through life. I’d start to withdraw within myself and remove any possibility of social interaction by hiding inside of my apartment. 
My anxiety had taken full grip of my life and instead of addressing it, I kept putting off my mental health and continued to spiral into a negative headspace that left me unable to go to class, despondent in my relationship with my now wife, and apathetic to the world around me. 
It took me bottoming out from a mental health perspective to finally seek out the help that I needed in order to address the anxiety that I had allowed to become a well-established, long-term resident in my mind. I know that so many others out in the world face the same social and generalized anxiety that I have faced and ultimately overcome in my life. 
So I’d like to share some of what helped me to get past my own anxiety and start living a fear-free, positive life. 

How to Reduce Anxiety: Recognize the Triggers

The first step to addressing any problem is to develop the self-awareness to realize that it is indeed a real problem in your life. Anxiety happens on a spectrum of intensity and sometimes it can feel as light as a stomach ache and in other circumstances, it can bring about spontaneous bouts of panic and unease. 
So like any problem you have to recognize how detrimental your own anxiety has become in your life and work to identify what your triggers are. Taking the time to evaluate the internal process that occurs when anxiety creeps up to try to pinpoint what it is that is causing it, is an important first step. That knowledge is necessary to start combatting those anxious feelings. 
For me, I had a generalized anxiety that often materialized in a wide variety of social settings, though most often when it came to social interactions that were wrapped in an obligation or responsibility. I had started to sluff off on my school work in college, for example, and so any time I had unexpected encounters with professors whose class I had perhaps skipped, or not turned in my school work for, I’d start to feel the anxiety creeping into my mind. 
It got so bad at times that I couldn’t even go to the customer help desk at Walmart to return an item (begging my wife to do it for me). It was in this season that I started to recognize just how much my anxiety was crippling me from being able to live a normal life. I knew that it needed to be addressed but I wasn’t sure what to do. 
Recognition is the first step but in recognizing what it is that triggers your anxiety, I think it’s important to consider that you shouldn’t simply avoid what triggers it. If anything, you should take a hard look at what that trigger is, and if it makes logical sense that you allow it to have such an impact on your life. This will be important as we get deeper into the steps to reduce anxiety. 

How to Reduce Anxiety: Take Action, Get Healthy

Sounds a bit general doesn’t it? What do I mean when I say the simple line; Take action, get healthy? Well, let me ask you a question. Do you have a regular sleep schedule? Are you taking care of yourself physically? Do you exercise at all throughout the week? What do your eating habits look like? Is it fast food on the regular or whole foods? Are you binge drinking or smoking on a near daily basis? 
These are some of the valid questions that you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself. If you aren’t getting a regular schedule of sleep then you are going to be tired. A tired mind over a prolonged period of time is weaker and more susceptible to fear or anxiety. So that to me is step number one in the push to “Take Action, Get Healthy”

Get More Sleep

Studies show that sleep plays a crucial role in your overall health as a person. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute “Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.” 
For most people the healthy dose of sleep that you should aim for on a night to night basis is 7-8 hours. I think this simple fix is often an overlooked area when it comes to addressing mental anxiety. When you are tired and groggy, your state of mind is not in peak condition and you become more susceptible to doubt, fear, negativity, and that creeping feeling of anxiety as you aren’t at full capacity to handle the curve balls of life. Just as our phones need a proper recharge in the evening so that they are ready for a full day of use and activity, our body needs to recharge as well. 

Start Exercising

The interesting thing about the different actions that I’m describing as part of the way to “take action, get healthy” is that they are all interconnected. Exercise is an important element of breaking out of the chains of anxiety because it gets your endorphins going, allows you to burn off excess fat and energy, improves your overall physical health, and also allows you to get better sleep as you will inevitably sleep more if you’ve physically exerted yourself via some form of exercise. 
I understand how hard it can be to find motivation to work out, run, play a sport, or even go on a walk when you feel plagued by anxiety, but breaking out of your own comfort zone and going for a walk in the neighborhood each evening could be a great way to start some new habits that will breathe life into a more positive mindset. 

Evaluate Your Consumption Habits

This one is going to be absolutely vital in addressing your propensity to be overcome by anxiety but addressing it is doubly important as it hits on multiple facets of why you may be feeling anxiety. Looking at your own consumption habits when it comes to food, alcohol, or any other substances that may be altering your state of mind, is so key to addressing your anxiety. 
Too many times to count, I’ve spoken with friends who are feeling high levels of stress and anxiety on a daily basis and not only are they not sleeping and not exercising, but they are also not eating right, drinking alcohol on a regular basis, and/or consuming mind altering substances. I understand that many people utilize Cannabis as a means to cope with their anxiety and calm down their senses. 
But I also believe that doing so, alongside drinking or eating unhealthily on a regular basis, can be a strong root cause for the anxiety itself. As you start to grow more dependent on any of those type of consumption habits, you create an internal dynamic where you feel compelled to do so in order to stave off anxiety. Unfortunately doing so is only applying a band aid solution. 
Clarity of mind is so important in working to address your anxiety. If you are clouding your thoughts and drowning out anxiety with alcohol or smoking, then you aren’t truly dealing with the issue. You are only temporarily ignoring it and by doing it in this manner, you are creating a vicious cycle of unhealthy behavior. 
Your sleep will suffer as your body works through the night to eliminate the toxins from your body. Your wallet will suffer as you spend more and more money on alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, developing a psychological addition to this coping mechanism instead of addressing the foundational causes of it. 
Your relationships will suffer as the people around you recognize the signs of deteritaion but are unsure how to address it with you without causing you pain or insecurity. If you are at this place in your life then I really urge you to evaluate your day to day actions.
How long have you been in this rut? How long have you been using this band aid approach to address something that stems much deeper? How long have you been putting off your physical and mental health in order to prioritize a short lived escape that never fully addresses the underlining problem? 
We all have these seasons in our life that feel difficult to navigate and I urge you to take a hard look at your own behavior. You cannot try and mount that process of working on yourself and addressing habits that may be hurting you more than helping you, on your own. Find friends, family members, a significant other who can help keep you accountable and encourage you to reduce your intake and consumption of these substances so that you can allow your mind some time to be clear headed.
If you take that step forward and give your mind and body a break, you’d be surprised how that can allow for you to better analyze your mental state and better understand what has been trigging your anxiety. 
It’s never easy to break a habit especially when you feel as though smoking or drinking is actually helping you to solve an internal issue. I’ve seen it in friends and family too many times to count and with all of the personal experience that I have in this particular area, I have learned the same lesson over and over. Utilizing drugs or alcohol to cover up your anxiety only serves to disguise the hurts and pains you are feeling. Until you give yourself the gift of a clear mind, you will find it difficult to ever truly address the anxiety that you are feeling. 
I urge you to evaluate your consumption habits as getting a clear mind will lead to be a more coherent through process, the potential for better sleep, and a clarity that will allow for you to better evaluate the root causes of your anxiety and start developing a plan of action to truly address it. 

How to Reduce Anxiety: Start Living Positively

There is no one way to fix your own anxiety as every single person has a different set of circumstances that has led them to a place where their anxiety has become a more dominating force in their mindset. As weird as it might be to consider, I do believe that a little bit of anxiety in healthy doses can be a good thing for example, feeling somewhat anxious before a big test might be your minds way of conveying that you need to hit the books harder and study more. 
How would you relieve the anxiety in a situation like that? Probably by studying more until your confidence levels were boosted by the fact that you put in the proper amount of time in class, on school work, and in the books to prepare for the test. 
The problem is when we let anxiety become THE dominating force in our life and effect our daily walk through the world. 
I think if you’ve addressed some of the above discussed issues in order to stave off anxiety then the next step in my mind is to take control of your thoughts, and start living positively. With every interaction and every event that occurs in our life, we have an active choice that we get to make as far as how we will respond in any given situation. 
Only you have the control over your own thoughts as they race through your mind. You can choose to empower certain trains of thought or to shut them down and redirect your mind. Which brings me to the next point in how to reduce anxiety. 

Take Control Over Your Thoughts

The people who are living in a state of fear, anxiety, or negativity are not that way by nature. You’ve established behaviors in your life that are conditioned responses to any given scenario. Your thoughts are not an automatic system of which you have no active say or control in. 
In fact, you have an immense amount of power inside your own mind, should you choose to utilize it for the greater good of you. When I speak of the idea of controlling your thoughts, I don’t mean to say that you should work to NOT think about a specific thing, feeling, or issue. In fact, research from Harvard University Psychologist Daniel Wegner shows that the more you try to not think about something, the higher the chance that your mind will come back to that topic or issue. 
Instead of avoiding a negative thought or trying to suppress it, I advocate that you redirect your time and energy into something productive or positive that you enjoy in your life. If I’m obsessing about that promotion at work that still hasn’t happened for me and allowing it to summon up a cloud that is following me into the evening after I leave work, I often will try and redirect my thoughts and focus onto my daughter. 
Her smile, her laughter, her playful spirit are the only cure I need to take my mind off of something that I have no control over (when that promotion will materialize), and allows me to instead soak in a moment in time with my loved ones that I will forever cherish. 
The hardest thing to do when it comes to anxiety, is recognizing when a thought is taking place that will lead you down the path to feeling anxious. But if you can start to work harder to identify these root causes and sidestep them by redirecting your thoughts to something that is beneficial, positive, productive or useful for your mental health, then you can start to build a new healthier habit. 
My wife has had issues of negativity, doubt, and stress in the past with most of the things that create those feelings, being people or things that she has little control over. We’ve been working as a family to remind each other what we can and cannot control, and remind each other that worrying about what we have no control over, is wasting your time and your energy. 
I’ve seen a drastic reduction over the years in the power that my wife gives to external issues, stresses, and anxieties and in turn, an even more drastic increase in the positivity that is flowing through her each and every year. As she realized just how much power she has over her own thoughts, a beautiful shift began to take place. 
I’ve had a similar experience with my own thoughts particularly when it comes to the feelings of anxiety that used to plague me in simple social interactions. I recognized that the anxiety was of little use to me and it was inhibiting normal day stuff that I used to be able to do without worry. 
Identifying the anxiety, its root causes, addressing how I allowed it to affect me, and redirecting my thoughts allowed me to focus on areas in my life that gave me positive vibes, uplifting feelings, and restored the power into my own hands. 

Reject Negative Self Talk, Embrace Positivity in Your Life

In line with the idea of taking back the power of your thoughts I think you also have to reject the negative self-talk that so many of use indulge over extended periods of time. You as a human have to be your number one advocate through life. It can’t be your best friend, your spouse, your siblings, your parents, your boss, your kids, your coach, or any other influential person in your life. It has to be YOU! 
At the end of the day, no one knows you as well as you do yourself. So why do you talk badly about yourself? Why do you make self-deprecating jokes? Why do you consider yourself last when you compare your own life to the ones around you being lived out by the people you care about? 
You don’t have to be super confident in your own abilities to understand that your own internal dialogue can go a long way in either positively impacting or negatively impacting who you are as a person. 
You can place the blame on anxiety but sometimes I think we use anxiety as the crutch for why we aren’t evaluating our own internal behavior with more critical eyes. The anxiety is an emotional reaction to some sort of stimuli, whether it be internal or external. 
More often than not, I’d argue that anxiety materializes based off of an internal conversation that you are having with yourself. 
“I’m not going to be able to talk to this cashier at Walmart so I’ll just not return the item that was faulty.” 
“I can’t see the professor outside of class he might ask me why I missed the last lecture.” 
“I can’t ask that question to my boss or he might think I’m an idiot.” 
In each of those examples, I was telling myself what I couldn’t do or projecting a negative outcome for something that hadn’t happened yet. I KNOW that we all do this to a degree and this is such a big root cause of our internal struggle with anxiety! 
I’ve done it a million times in my life but I wasn’t recognizing that I was doing it for the longest time, so I wasn’t making the change necessary to stop those kind of negative self-talk moments in their tracks, and thus, my anxiety was overwhelming. 
When I finally realized and became of aware of these internal musings that were actually dragging me into the mud of anxious feelings, I was a bit shocked. What am I saying to myself? Why am I letting myself become fearful about something that isn’t even real? 
I was literally creating imaginary situations in my own head and in those entirely fictional accounts, I was telling myself that I’d LOSE! How crazy is that?!
And yet, I fear that too many people in our world are doing exactly the same thing multiple times a day without even recognizing that they are doing it. 
Consider your thoughts and do your best to catch yourself in the act if you’ve been speaking negatively over your own life or situations you come across in it. If you instead start speaking life into your situation, your fears, your anxiety, and are doing your best to serve as a conduit for positivity, then you will start to feel that shift in your internal monologue. 
There is no room for anxiety when you start filling yourself up with positive energy, pushing out the negative self-talk, and replacing it with self-encouragement that will eventually lead you to realization of your best you. 
Embracing the positive aspects of life and taking the time to consider them and hold them close in your mind, instead of allowing negativity, fear, doubt, and anxiety to fill that space, will have a tremendous impact on your mental health if you choose to live in that manner over a longer stretch of time. 
Conditioned emotional responses turn into habits and habits over the long term turn into your personality traits. So by working to recondition your mind and start living with a more positive mindset, you will see a dramatic swing in the right direction. 

Utilize Meditation, Yoga, or Prayer

So you’ve been working to take control over your thoughts, to reject negative self-talk and in its place, encourage yourself and speak positively over your own direction, and now you are looking for ways to continue down that path of reducing your internal anxiety and becoming a more free person, ready to interact with the world and live in a more fluid manner. 
I think an excellent resource to try and continue to shape your own thought patterns and continue to work on reducing anxiety, is to practice the act of meditation, yoga, prayer, or a combination of all of these. 
I especially like meditation and yoga because the idea behind it is to quiet your mind. It can be difficult to make the time and effort to do so, but spending the concerted effort to actually still your mind and just breathe to meditate or focus your mind on your movements in Yoga, can be so effective to help you put anxiety into perspective. Often I’ve considered how silly my anxieties have been at time and questioned why I ever allowed myself to be so overcome by that feeling. 
It all traces back to me not caring for my body, my mind, not getting proper sleep, and not taking control of my thoughts. Reducing anxiety isn’t easy but it is possible for anyone to do if they are finally fed up enough with the power it has taken from them. 
Whether you are religious or not, prayer is also a great way to put your problems into perspective. The act of praying for someone else’s circumstances, hurts, worries, loss of job, loss of a loved one, etc. is yet another method of considering how small your anxiety really is when compared to the losses or issues that others may be facing. 
The smaller you can make that anxiety in your mind and in comparison to some of the tangible hardships others face, the greater amount of power you can give back to yourself as you take that power back from anxiety. 
Utilizing meditation, yoga, or prayer are all valid ways to actively decrease or reduce your anxiety and continue to learn how to control your thought process to re-empower you in your own life. 

How to Reduce Anxiety: Consider Therapy

While I’m listing this option at the bottom of the article, I don’t feel as though this is a last resort option. In fact for some people this might be the best first step to take. Discussing your anxiety and working to understand the roots of it with a professional is a fantastic way to start addressing your anxiety. 
As I’ve been going to Therapy, it has served me well in identifying some of the problem areas and behaviors in my life and allowed me a better insight into why I was so anxious in my early 20’s and unable to shake that cloud over my life. 
I know that it isn’t an option for everyone as it does cost money but consider the cost of therapy as an investment into your mental health and long term success on this planet. Navigating your own thoughts is no easy feat and having a good therapist to bounce your issues, questions, hurts, and history off of will help you to establish a roadmap to successfully navigating and ultimately overcoming your anxiety. 
I used to have a lot of fear/anxiety associated with going to a therapist but after finally finding the right one, it’s become one of the most effective tools on my journey to be a better person and to have a greater control over my anxiety. 
It is a long road approach that bears much fruit if you are committed to going consistently and being open to the suggestions of your therapist. 

How to Reduce Anxiety: Consider Medication

The final option that I believe you should consider in reducing your anxiety is to take prescribed medication. I hesitate to be an advocate for prescription pills as a means to control an emotional state but I have to admit as someone who has taken anti-anxiety medication in the past, it can be useful in that it teaches you that your anxiety can be controlled. 
However I also want to caution readers that medication is not for everyone as it does have varying levels of side effects other than the intended use of reducing your anxiety. 
Ultimately, I stopped taking my medication because though it helped with reducing my anxiety, it also made me more apathetic and numb in general on a day to day basis. 
I felt emotionally disconnected from my spouse and my actions, and began to recognize that I wasn’t behaving like myself.
do think for some it can serve as either a short term solution to teach you how to control your anxiety, or a long term solution for those who feel comfortable and themselves on the meds. But I would really emphasize that I think all other options on this list of how to reduce anxiety should be explored prior to taking the step of getting on medication. 

I’d be really interested to hear any of the reader’s responses, reactions, or personal experiences with any of the above methods of reducing anxiety and hope that we can all work to be our best selves from a mental and physical standpoint. 
If you enjoy reading Likelyfiction then please take the time to subscribe to the blog for updates as more articles are released, share it with your friends and family, and comment below so we can continue the discussion. Also check out my recent post about the “4 Ways to be a Better Person” which as described in the title is 4 concise and useful tips on how you can work to be a better human in this crazy world we call Earth. 
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