Ever take a test and forget something you know that you know?
I sure have!
That’s what anxiety does – it makes us forget things, and not just study material.
Anxiety also makes us forget who we truly are, that we’ve succeeded in the past and that we can’t predict the future.
So, the next time anxiety strikes, remind yourself of these 10 comforting truths.
Here are 10 Critical Things to Remember When You Have Anxiety:
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1.You are alive (what a gift!) and the anxiety will not kill you
An extremely unlikely series of events had to happen in order for you to be here – you are a miracle.
The probability of you existing at all has been estimated at 1 in 10 2,685,000!
And yet here you are. That’s so unbelievably awesome!
Life is short … too short to be worried about things you can’t control or things that, in perspective, are really unimportant.
When you have anxiety, you are focusing on the past or the future and not living in the present moment.
It’s basically a big old waste of your precious time.
And we all know how fast time goes by. You don’t want to spend it worrying about what might be or what might have been.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius
The anxiety will not kill you - even though it sure feels like it will when you’re having a panic attack.
Remember, you’ve already survived every anxiety attack, every blunder, every life-threatening situation you’ve faced so far.
And you will get through this, too.
*Does it help you to hear other people's "anxiety stories"? Check out these 5 Best TED Talks on Anxiety.*
2. There are some benefits to anxiety
Studies show that anxious people make better friends, workers, leaders and …
I know, I was surprised too!
One study examined people’s reactions in a realistic shooting paradigm.
Researchers found that those with high anxiety:
1. were better able to distinguish between hostiles and innocents and
2. demonstrated significantly better shooting accuracy than those who did not suffer from anxiety.
Another study showed that anxious people also fare better in crisis situations - they basically have a better chance of coming out unscathed than those who are more laid back.
This supports the conclusion of yet another study in which researchers concluded that who have anxiety as adolescents are more likely to live past their 25th birthday than those who do not.
Anxious people also make better leaders.
According to Harvard legal scholar, Cass Sunstein, as compared to more complacent leaders, anxious leaders were better able to redirect energies, engage in active listening, remain flexible and come up with inventive solutions to problems.
So, remember that having anxiety isn’t all bad. There are some pretty amazing benefits too!
*Check out this post for tips on how to communicate more effectively under stress.
3. It’s O.K. to let it out
What’s the difference between ‘nervous’ and ‘excited’?
There is none.
At least not to your body.
It’s only our perception of body stimuli (such as increased heart rate, sweating, etc.) that makes us label our feelings as nervous or excited.
Simon Sinek has a great video in which he talks about how athletes never say they were “nervous” for a big game. They say they were “excited”.
If you get anxiety when you’re about to perform (sports, public speaking, even engaging with people in social situations), try saying, “This is exciting!”
Reframing nervousness as excitement allows your body to let it out. It’s already there, it’s got to go somewhere. Why not turn your fear into fuel instead of letting the anxiety hold you back?
Just think about when you're really stressed out and someone tells you to “relax” or “calm down”.
It doesn’t work.
Your body can actually take up to an hour to completely relax after a stressful experience, so trying to rapidly suppress your emotions will probably backfire.
So, when anxiety strikes, recognize it, acknowledge it and let it run its course – it will pass faster than if you get all anxious because you’re anxious!
Here’s a powerful TED Talk by Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal to help you shift your perception and make stress your friend.
4. You have the power to reduce your anxiety
You're not helpless.
There are also many things you can do to alleviate your anxiety the moment it hits.
One of the best activities for living a simpler life and reducing stress is meditation.
When you focus on your breathing, you may find that there is no room for other, anxious thoughts.
Another good activity is coloring or anything that requires your creative attention. Forcing your mind to focus on a task can help to distract you from the anxiety.
If you’re having a panic attack, try using the 5-4-3-2-1 technique: name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
When you incorporate coloring (see), music (hear), aromatherapy (smell), tea (taste), and healing crystals or a shower/bath (touch), your anxiety level should go down quite a bit.
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You can also prepare for the next time anxiety hits in advance by maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough water and exercising.
(I also love juicing; it helps me every time I am not feeling well, anxiety or otherwise).
There are also lots of habits that can make anxiety worse so make sure you are avoiding those!
5. You are not alone
40 million people suffer from an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) – that’s 18 percent of the population.
Anxiety doesn’t discriminate based on race, generation, financial station, health or anything else. It can strike anyone at any time.
And it’s only going to become more prevalent in today’s high-pressure, technology-inundated, fast-paced society.
There are many types of anxiety: generalized anxiety, social anxiety, driving anxiety, flying anxiety, anxiety and depression, panic attacks, agoraphobia; the list goes on and on.
If you have anxiety about anything, chances are there is someone who understands exactly what you are going through.
Connecting with others can help you realize that you are not alone.
Family and friends are a good place to start for support. But, if they are judgmental or critical, it may be best to find another network, such as a support group or therapy counselor.
Journaling is another effective way to process your unresolved issues and understand your thought process.
Just remember, when it comes to anxiety, you are not alone.
*Related post: 50 Inspirational Quotes about Life, Love & Happiness*
6. This too shall pass
“This too shall pass” is a mantra I like to use when I’m having anxiety to remind myself that it will not last forever.
Nothing lasts forever … that is a cardinal rule of life. Everything changes.
In the middle of an anxiety attack, it can feel like the end of the world. Like you’re going to die. Like it will never end.
But, that is just the anxiety talking.
It’s only temporary and things will get better … especially if you’re prepared.
Think of a mantra that resonates with you. It doesn’t have to be “this too shall pass”, it can be:
Even if you don’t believe it yet, just keep repeating it to yourself. It will eventually sink in.
Acting “as if” is a powerful cognitive behavioral technique – act as if you have already achieved the outcome you want and it will eventually be so.
beliefs become your thoughts,
thoughts become your words,
words become your actions,
actions become your habits,
habits become your values,
values become your destiny.”
7. Anxiety is a liar
Sometimes, anxiety cannot be trusted. It lies.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for stress and anxiety, like when your life is in danger and your body is trying to give you the extra boost of adrenaline you need to survive.
But, when anxiety keeps you from pursuing your big goals in life, you’ve got to set the record straight.
Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a situation that’s actually dangerous and a situation that you only perceive to be dangerous.
It can trigger “false alarm fear” – fear that is a result of your perception and not the actual situation itself.
Often, our own limiting beliefs can trigger false alarm fear and anxiety.
Next time you’re having anxiety, see if you have any negative self-talk going on like, “I’m not good enough”, or “It’s too late”, or “I always mess things up”.
These thoughts are usually recognizable by their exaggerated nature.
They’ll often contain the words “always” or “never”, a clear sign that they are false.
Ruminating over the past or catastrophizing about the future will get you nowhere.
We don’t know why things happen the way they do; all we can do is trust that everything is unfolding as it should, even if we don’t know why.
Don’t let fear hold you back from seeing what great things you can accomplish. Remember:
“Everything seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
8. You are in control of your thoughts
You have the power to control your body and your mind.
When I first read that, it literally changed my life. I had never thought about it that way - total paradigm shift!
Your brain is changeable; thanks to neuroplasticity, you are not stuck with the brain you are born with.
You can challenge and change your thoughts.
The next time you have a negative thought, label it as such – just a thought. Say to yourself, “That’s interesting that I would think that.”
Then, separate yourself from it. Your thoughts do not have to define you, nor does your anxiety.
Your thoughts influence your success – don’t allow yourself to think negative ones without countering them.
Also, evaluate what factors contributed to your anxious thoughts. Mood has a lot to do with how we think.
So, how were you feeling in the moments before anxiety struck the last time?
Were you feeling down? If so, why?
It could be something as simple as:
Make the necessary changes so that it’s easier for you to interrupt your negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones.
9. Your body may be trying to tell you something important
Listen to your body!
Your anxiety may be stemming from an important health issue or something in your life that needs to be changed.
So, pay attention to when your anxiety comes on.
Does anxiety strike right before you go to work? At night when you go to bed? When you’re driving?
If you notice a pattern, your body might be trying to tell you something.
When I worked at this one job I used to have as an administrative assistant, I would get really bad anxiety in the morning before work and at night when trying to fall asleep because I was dreading going to work in the morning.
It got so bad that I quit without having another job lined up, which in hindsight was kind of crazy but I know that it was the right thing to do.
My body was talking to me and I listened.
I knew the job was not right for me and I had to get out. If I hadn’t, who knows if I would have become the freelance writer/blogger/entrepreneur I am today (which I love).
Don’t ignore the underlying cause of your anxiety.
The negative health effects of stress are serious; it can harm your musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous and reproductive systems.
10. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
People who suffer from anxiety are incredibly strong because they have to be in order to deal with the anxiety.
So, remember what a fierce warrior you are.
Each time you make it through an anxiety attack, you become stronger – remember all you’ve been through!
In life, there will be joy and there will be sorrow. Triumph and defeat. Justice and unfairness.
All are necessary parts of the experience.
Remember that facing adversity builds character and prepares you to handle future stressful situations with aplomb.
Whenever I’m going through something difficult, I tell myself that the experience is happening for a reason that I may not understand yet and that it will only make me stronger.
Also, pay attention to - what is causing you to have anxiety?
If you have anxiety before trying something new or putting yourself out there in some way, it may very well be an indication of what’s really important to you.
“The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” -Steven Pressfield
We typically only have anxiety about things that are important to us.
Your anxiety may be cluing you in to something that you need to achieve for your own personal growth and empowerment.
The fear of failure is one of the most common fears. But, the truth is that failure is an inevitable part of success.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” -J.K. Rowling
Conclusion- 10 Critical Things to Remember When You Have Anxiety:
1. There are benefits to anxiety (better friend, worker, leader, warrior)
2. You are alive and the anxiety won’t kill you (you’ve survived everything life has thrown at you so far)
3. It’s ok to let it out (reframe nervousness as excitement)
4. You have the power to reduce your anxiety (breathing, diet, exercise, 5-4-3-2-1 technique)
5. You are not alone (40 million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder and everyone experiences anxiety at some point)
6. This too shall pass (repeat a meaningful mantra)
7. Anxiety is a liar (is your anxiety stemming from actual danger or your perception of danger?)
8. You are in control of your thoughts (thoughts are not facts, neuroplasticity)
9. Your body may be trying to tell you something important (is it time to quit your job, get out of a relationship, make a lifestyle change?)
10. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (remember your why, enjoy the journey)
Over to you … anything I didn’t mention? What helps you when you have anxiety?
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