Overcoming Anxiety

Your heart is racing, you’re starting to sweat, your mind is confused, you don’t know what to do or where to go… 

Anyone relate to that?

If you’ve experienced an anxiety attack, those symptoms and more will be familiar. Anxiety can creep up on any of us… and it can be one of the most distressing experiences a person can go through. It is common, possibly epidemic in its manifestation. It isn’t fun… but IT IS TREATABLE!!!

This article is by no means exhaustive, and I would always recommend that a person talk to their GP, counsellor or social worker about these things.

Anxiety as an emotion is actually a natural, normal and necessary thing. if you are about to jump off a cliff and you don’t feel anxious… something ian wrong. If you drive too fast without feeling a measure of anxiety… there is an issue. The purpose of anxiety in our lives is specifically for self preservation. If you find yourself standing in front of a lion you will be afraid, and the chemicals released in your brain and body will specifically equip you to run faster. I for one, am glad about that. But if you’re anxious for no apparent reason, or you have a constant sense of dread or ‘low level anxiety’ that seems to hang around like an unwelcome friend, there is an issue.

Anxiety can develop because of the following factors ( and more)

  • family of origin issues and dysfunction
  • lack of boundaries
  • lack of structure
  • traumatic events
  • social isolation
  • drug use
  • Genetic disposition
  • habitual worrying
  • mental illness

Some of those factors are beyond a persons control ( ie genetic disposition), but many of them ARE within a persons control. A big key in overcoming anxiety is focusing on what you can control and not wasting energy trying to fix what can’t control. In fact, the whole concept of control is central to anxiety. The more ‘in control’ you feel, the less anxious you will generally be. True freedom in every instance is self control.

Overcoming anxiety may involve a different road for each person. For one it may be purely a neurological issue, for another body/physical/ medical, for another spiritual, for another it may be relational disconnect. For the sake of brevity I have generalised, but the keys below are well worth applying.

Some practical ways to alleviate and overcome anxiety are:

  • ensure you are getting enough sleep ( this may mean non addictive sleeping pills are helpful)
  • get enough exercise ( particularly aerobic)
  • review your diet and make any necessary changes
  • apply some routine or structure to your life- if that is lacking
  • be intentional about relationships, move towards people (when possible)
  • read/ watch/ listen to positive material
  • prayer/engage in meditation or relaxation techniques/ breathing exercises
  • take regular breaks/ holidays as much as is possible
  • talk to someone about it
  • practice mindfulness ( this is a ‘muscle’ that needs to be exercised)
  • engage in group therapy and/ or group activity (even online if that's the only option)
  • get out in the sun ( vitamin D)
  • pursue laughter
  • explore your passions, gifts and creative side
  • medication- this should be a last resort, and only done in accompaniment with counselling.
  • learn and practice healthy boundaries- how to say NO when necessary, set limits and be assertive.
  • address (false)guilt issues

A major contributor to anxiety in Western culture is relational disconnect. Materialism, ‘getting ahead’, keeping up with the Jones’s and stressful, driven living can push meaningful relationships out the door and leave a person feeling dissatisfied, lonely and eventually anxious. The obvious antidote to this is reconsidering your priorities… and living in a way that is conducive to normal healthy functioning. The bottom line is, you’re not a machine, you’re a human being.

Be at peace