The boat of life seldom sails smoothly. Worries and anxiety are part and parcel of living, but can anxiety stop you from living your life as you’d like to?
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
― Corrie ten Boom, Clippings from My Notebook
Anxiety is our body’s natural response towards a perceived threat, which is why, when we are aware of an important presentation at work, an anticipated blind date, or an unknown delay in the arrival of a dear one back home, we become anxious. However, there are times when we worry about things that others don’t even think about! We fail to understand why they cannot see the trouble that may lie ahead, and they fail to understand why we are worried about something that “is not likely to happen”. If we find ourselves in a situation like this, then should we consider that our anxiety is “not normal”? Are we becoming way too anxious, should we do something to control our anxiety?
It is easier said than done! If you realize that your anxiety is creating troubles in your life, that it is drifting you away from your family, friends, and even yourself, then you need to put in your 100 percent to control it, or at least try to cope with it! This can be done through some serious changes in your lifestyle, and your approach towards life. While lifestyle changes such as breathing exercises, meditation, counseling, and professional therapy, surely benefit, the following points will help you bring about a necessary alteration in your attitude towards life, eliminating unwanted anxiety in the long run.
Understand, Life’s Imperfections Make it Perfect!
The one thing that we need to understand is the fact that ‘life can never be perfect’! While some of you may raise your eyebrows with this statement, read on the following lines before you grouch.
You see, although it is “our life”, it is still dependent on a lot of external factors―our family members, friends, people at work … our boss! While you may expect all these people to synchronize their thinking with yours, you very well know how unlikely it is to happen. If one day you want your children to go to the park with you, they would have plans to go for a basketball game. If you were expecting your husband to come early from work, he would be stuck in a meeting. If you were wanting your pet to sit next to you silently, he would be wanting to go out and play Frisbee. When such situations occur, one feels lonely, helpless, left out, and stressed. Anxiety crawls up your mind. You end up wondering if your children are involved in drugs or teenage sex, you wonder if your husband is cheating on you, you think that your pet doesn’t care for you anymore, you wonder if it is the same dog that used to cuddle next to you when you were stressed.
Instead of feeling sad that your children don’t spend enough time with you in the park, why don’t you join them for a basketball game? You can sit among the audience, cheer your kids, and be proud of how well they play the game. I’m sure, even they would appreciate it. Coming to the point where your husband spends most of the time working late in his office, instead of being disappointed in him and giving him a cold shoulder when he returns from work, why don’t you wait for him one day, hug him when he enters the house, and ask him if he’d like a hot cup of coffee. Talk to him about his problems at work, give him a massage. Listen to him, and maybe he’ll listen back. At times, one needs to become a good friend to get a good friend. Confide in each other, emotionally and physically, letting all the differences and imaginary worries go away.
As far as your pet is concerned, if he wants to play Frisbee, maybe it is because he knows that some physical exertion out in the open would relax your mood. At times, animals have a better solution to our problems than us.
Get a Pet
Speaking of animals, unless you have a terrible allergy or phobia towards pets, don’t hesitate to keep one. Controlling your anxiety is all about diverting your energy into something that calms your mind, and trust me, a pet does a great job at that! While you get off your bed with thoughts making you anxious about a critical presentation at work, your dog wags his tail, all excited about the things he would explore, and the time he would spend with you while you take him out for a morning walk. Morning walk is also a good way to soothe your mind, while you feel the gentle breeze pass by your face, making you feel as if the stress has passed along with it.
While you come back from work, your pet welcomes you by snuggling around your legs, indicating that he is so happy to see you, and you feel so blessed by the thought that your presence is important to someone who is waiting to play with you, to go out and enjoy the beauty of the world with you. So, while your post-work routine would include worrying about the stress at work, your pet would substitute it with smiles, giggles, and some fun games in the park, or at home.
Hang Your Troubles on a Tree
Well, I remember reading this story some time ago.
A man, before entering his house―after coming back from a stressful day at work―would stand next to a tree outside his house for a few minutes, and then enter his house to greet his wife and kids with a cheerful smile. On being asked as to how he manages to just switch from being stressed and anxious at work, to being all cheerful and relaxed at home, he replied, “Every evening before meeting my family, I hang all my worries and troubles on a tree outside my house. By doing so, I feel free, and therefore, I am able to enjoy my time with my family. Every morning when I go back to work, I pick those troubles back, but the funny part is that they don’t seem to be that big a deal the next day.
Moral of the story: At times letting go of your worries for a while helps you deal with them in a better way.
Pour Out Your Thoughts
Most of us wish that someone could understand the turmoil going within our minds, but we often find that people cannot simply understand our state … and how do you expect someone who cannot understand us, comfort us? Nonetheless, this doesn’t lessen the ‘need’ to share and pour out your inner thoughts! Sharing your worries actually makes them disappear. If you can’t really think of anyone who would understand, pen down your emotions. Maintain a diary wherein you can express yourself openly. Write about the things that cause anxiety, the factors that trigger it. Ask yourself, is worrying actually helping you? Write, and talk to yourself. Write the things that you wished others told you, things that would comfort you, and conclude your writing with words that make you feel better―become your own confidant.
Again, stressing on the importance of keeping a pet, why not share your worries with your pet? While they can’t speak to us, trust me, they can definitely understand us, and comfort us in their own innocent ways. Try it, you would know.
Divert Your Energy
Studies reveal that anxiety is caused when the hormone ‘adrenaline’ is released into the bloodstream. It makes the body go into the “fight-for-your-survival mode”. So, you tend to become restless, and display certain physical symptoms like heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness, irregular breathing, and so on. Instead of focusing on the destructive cause of anxiety, you must divert your energy into something positive and constructive.
One of the best options that you have, is to exercise! You can run, cycle, brisk walk, swim, join the gym, or do anything that makes you sweat, to release all the built-up energy inside your body. Experts suggest that exercise makes you burn the hormones that cause stress. Not only this, it also releases a chemical called endorphin which makes you relax. Even making love is a good way to calm your mind. So, instead of pushing your partner away from you because of all the worries of life, snuggle yourself into his/her arms and just embrace each other.
Confront Your Fears
The key to dealing with anxiety is to face your fears. Don’t fight with it, don’t resist, don’t try to run away or hide. Welcome the thoughts.
Confused? While all the previous points ask you to divert your energy and focus, this point asks you to allow the anxiety to be a part of your thoughts? Well, yes! Before I explain this point further, understand that there is a difference between diverting your thoughts and running away from them. Here is how –
Running away from your anxious thoughts is when you fight within yourself, wherein one part of you says that you will not lose your job, while the other part says just the opposite. But you need to face this thought, welcome it, and divert it. You fear that you’ll lose your job, first of all, you won’t, and even if you do, there are more jobs available. Know and believe that nothing will happen; you will be fine and so would be your finances. This world is full of opportunities, if one is lost, there are a million more waiting for you. And this is how you allow your thoughts to come into your head, but YOU divert them into something POSITIVE!
Look at the Bigger Picture
Another incident that helps us look at the bigger picture. I read this story sometime back, and it has helped me control my “negative thoughts” and focus on the positive ones.
A blind little boy sat on the sidewalk with a hat at his feet. There was also a sign which read, “I am blind, please help me”. While some people did drop in a few cents, the response was still very disappointing. One man not only dropped in a few coins, but also wrote some words on the sign board. After reading those words, a lot of people responded to the little boy’s plea, and within no time his hat was overflowing with coins. What did the man write on the board? “Today is a beautiful day, but I cannot see it.”
The way I relate to this story for dealing with my anxiety, is this: While we become anxious about things, most of which have not yet happened (and aren’t likely to happen), we forget about things we already have. The gift of sight is a blessing, and because we already have it, we tend to take it for granted. Similarly, the ‘good and positive things’ go unnoticed while we are concentrating on the negative.
Reopen Your Wish List
I haven’t come across one person till date who has never used the phrase “Oh … how I wish!” And even if we often fail to appreciate the gifts life has given us, we tend to remember those that aren’t yet a part of our life. So, while you look to escape from the anxious moments of life, just take a pen and a paper, and write the things you wish were a part of your life, and even if your inner voice shouts out, peace of mind, include it in the list! Also, include all the things that you wanted, ever since you were a child. If you wanted to ride a horse, or scuba dive, or if you wanted to learn the piano, put it all in, irrespective of the fact that it sounds practical or not. After your list is complete, write your plan on how and when can you fulfill those wishes. If, in your busyness, you fail to think about your wish list, then try this. Whenever, you feel that you’re becoming anxious again, choose any of the item in your wish list and start thinking how you would make it happen as soon as possible.
In the midst of dealing with our stress, we fail to realize our dreams. So, make your anxiety an alarm clock that indicates you to take some time off, and think about things that you dreamed of, things that give you happiness, and things that will happen because you will make them happen.
Believe in the Higher Power
While some of us may disagree about the existence of God, most of us would agree to the fact that there is a higher power. There is a power that controls our lives, controls the world in which we live. A power that controls the balance of life, that decides when it’ll rain, or when the trees will bear fruits. Some call it God, some call it a cosmic power, the law of attraction, but in spite of whatever it is called, there is something that is beyond our understanding, but has the power to understand our needs. Believe in that power, believe in the fact that it knows what you need, and whatever you desire will be given to you, believe that whatever is happening is for a better future.
If you believe that power to be God, then go to the church, or any place that gives you a spiritual solitude; sit, close your eyes, connect with God, and speak your heart out to Him. Tell Him about all the things that worry you, things that are beyond your control, things that no one else can understand but only Him. Just sit in silence, feel His presence around you, feel Him talking to you, telling you that He is there to take care of all that worries you, trust in Him, give Him all your worries, and know that you are under His care now. Make it a daily practice, and soon you will find peace within yourself, and harmony with those around you.
Appreciate the Gift Called Life
Life is a beautiful gift, but it is sad to see that most of us always end up moaning about how imperfect our individual lives are! While complaining on being overweight, bald, diabetic, or a heart patient, while we wonder the reason behind getting a difficult life partner, or an overcritical boss, we forget about the basic and most essential elements that make our life beautiful in spite of whatever lies in it. While you stare out the window pondering over your worries, look at the beautiful trees that stand tall and straight―are they worried that they might get cut one day? They are living their life without fear, bearing forth beautiful leaves, flowers, and fruits. Look at the birds chirping on those trees―are they worried that they might fall one day because their wings would stop moving? They believe in their strengths and no matter how harsh the winds blow, they still manage to get back to their nests without fail. And even though the branches of the trees may shake, the birds know that their grip is strong enough to withstand this rough phase.
If you observe closely, everything around us is an inspiration for us to live our life to the fullest, without any fears, without any worries, without anything that we do not need in our lives. If you notice, we humans are the only ones with the habit of keeping all the “unwanted clutter” close to us, be it physical or emotional. Most of us don’t know how to let go of our child’s baby clothes, their initial toys, the old car rusting in the garage, boxes filled with unwanted things that are of no use whatsoever. Similarly, our minds are filled with thoughts that are not needed, or are not yet a part of our reality. It is the accumulation of these thoughts that create a turmoil within and around us. Let go of these thoughts by at least trying to incorporate the 10 ways to cope with anxiety mentioned above. Trust me, all it needs is a sincere effort, and you will notice the positive change in your life, slowly and steadily.