Anxiety is a normal and healthy part of our lives: being anxious about the future leads to better preparation for that future. However, there are obviously circumstances where anxiety can become crippling and immobilizing. Here’s a brief guide centered around three ideas you should carry when faced with similar circumstances. These are the absolute best ways I’ve discovered for dealing with anxiety.
1. Accept that anxiety is a feeling, not a reality. Too often we let anxiety take a hold of us and control our lives and decisions. Recognize anxiety as a feeling. An emotion. It is nothing more than a physiological reaction to some thought that has occurred either in your conscious or unconscious mind. It is not your reality. Accept the feeling for what it is, take a big breath, and act beyond it. Rather than telling yourself “I am anxious”, tell yourself, “I feel anxious right now”. This separates your feelings from your decision-making headquarters. By doing so, you also reassure yourself that the feeling is temporary, giving yourself more control over the situation.
2. Your anxieties will never completely go away. A huge mistake people make is that they decide that they have to “overcome” their anxieties. This is extremely time consuming and usually not very effective. Rather than fighting your mind and trying to overcome these feelings, accept them for what they are. Accept them and act beyond them. It’s not about never feeling anxious again, it’s about feeling anxious and doing it anyway.
3. Break anxious tasks down into the smallest steps possible. If studying makes you anxious, don’t tell yourself you should sit down and study for 5 hours because you have an exam tomorrow. Instead, make a decision to put in 30 minutes of work, nothing more. If that still seems daunting, as it usually does when we face crippling anxiety, break it down to tasks as small as “I’m going to sit down at my desk and open my textbook”. Keep the goals specific, and go with baby steps.
As the great Henry Ford once said,
Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.