In this article, I will explain how to control anxiety with 10 simple steps that will greatly improve your quality of life.
All at some time in our lives, we have felt its symptoms and we have had to fight and overcome anxiety.
These symptoms cause agitation, acceleration of thought, loss of control, sweating and a long etcetera and are often treated as a disease.
This is the first error that occurs since anxiety is not a disease but a symptom of a problem.
Control Anxiety Naturally
When this occurs, the wide range of anxiolytics that are consumed appear and only stop the symptoms, leaving the problem that causes them unresolved, so it is only putting what I call “a patch”. Hence, many people continue to take anxiolytics for years and cannot get well.
10 steps to manage anxiety
1-Identify what happens to you
This first step is fundamental, you should know that anxiety fulfills an adaptive function, protects us by activating us for action and makes us react in an energetic way to post survival.
Imagine that you are walking through the countryside so relaxed and suddenly a brave bull of 500 kilos appears and runs towards you. This is where the symptoms of anxiety make their appearance to protect us and give us the energy you need to flee.
Your pupils will be dilated in order not to lose detail of the beast, the heart will beat harder to pump blood to the whole musculature and this will react more quickly, you will begin to sweat which will make your body cool, etc.
All this change that your body has experienced will make you run to get safe or even climb a tree. This one that I describe is the adaptive function, but at present, the situation of that bull that chases you is imagined, that’s where the problem lies.
Our mind imagines terrible things that can happen to us as we might lose our job, not be able to find a partner, leave our partner, a discussion with someone and a long etcetera that makes a dent in our health.
2-Know the power of your thoughts
Your way of thinking, the way you make a supposedly catastrophic situation using your imagination, is where much of the problem lies with anxiety. That is why the different anxiolytics do not act in changing that way of thinking but in the symptoms of anxiety.
The human being is an imaginative being by nature and that often turns against you and is reflected in the idea of imagining catastrophes where there are none.
Your brain and mine does not differentiate the real from the imaginary, but interprets the thought that you make, being able to be this real (there is a bull that persecutes me) or imaginary (I do not go to such a site, I do not say such thing, it will not be …..what if…….). In these two situations the mind interprets threat, it will activate us and we will feel fear.
3-Record those thoughts and make them aware
Write on a paper the situation that triggers the difficulty, the negative thoughts they generate and the degree of anxiety they produce. This is very useful since everything you have in your head you order when you write it and in turn, you make it conscious.
Observe that the thoughts are catastrophist and negative, which as I said before, are interpreted by your brain as real, which triggers real discomfort that turns into anxiety.
A greater conviction on your part that what you think may occur higher level of discomfort, so you have to doubt what you think. By giving more importance becomes solid for you, you become stiff and consequently affect you more.
If those thoughts revolve around the same situation, try not to avoid it. By doing so, anxiety will descend a little, but when we are in that situation anxiety will be triggered again at high levels.
He has to expose himself to that situation again and again and he will see that every time the anxiety diminishes, what is called in psychology the habituation will take place. This point is of vital importance because you will associate that being in that situation does not mean that everything you thought happened. He tests his own irrational thoughts.
4-Analyze the different possible interpretations of each situation
The same situation can affect different people in different ways. What one considers a problem to others is a typical situation of a day today. Nothing is a problem in itself but it will depend on the way in which it is interpreted, as I said before, and the options we have of other alternative interpretations to that same situation.
If you think that a situation has only one possible solution because you believe it yourself, according to your own arguments that do not put them to the test with others and that even though you think and think until exhaustion does not see you exit, consider yourself a rigid person.
If this is the case, it will be more affected by the difficulties with which it is found on a day-to-day basis. Be flexible, do not demand too much and focus on the solution, reserve the energy to generate alternatives that can give you another perspective on the situation.
The self-registration that I mentioned earlier will be useful to draw alternatives from those rigid thoughts that you wrote and that are the cause of the level of discomfort. Focus on finding possible alternatives to those thoughts and discover that when you find another, more positive thought, your level of discomfort will change.
With this, you will be telling your brain that this situation is not so bad either. Discuss the problem with other people for sure they see it differently and add other ways of seeing it to your repertoire, not closing it. Think that other people have solved it, learn from them it will be very useful.
5-Know the ABC model
This model is the one that governs cognitive psychology and is the key to understanding the role of thoughts, which I explain above. Aaron Beck, the father of cognitive psychology, in one of his books mentions a simple example that is what I usually use to explain to my patients the importance of thoughts.
Imagine that it is a windy day and you are at home. Suddenly the window starts to make noise and you think that it may be some thief who is trying to enter through the window, then you will feel fear and you will run out to call the police.
However, in the same situation you may think that it is the wind that simply moves it a little, so you will not feel fear. Observe how the interpretation you make of the wind changes your mood, your emotions, what we have seen so far.
6-Doubt your thoughts, confront them
The thoughts must be taken as hypothesis, something that must be checked.
- How likely do I have this to happen to me? From 0 to 100, what is the degree to which I believe that thought?
- What data do I have for and against?
- Where is it written that this is so? Why do you say it?
- Does the mere fact of what you think it means is true?
- Is everything you always think true? Has anything that you thought or been convinced about ever been false?
- Can I read the minds of other people? How do I know this is what you think? Is there a possibility that I’m wrong?
- Does thinking like this help me achieve my goals?
- Does it influence me to think in this way about my state of mind?
- If someone close to you knows what you are thinking, how would this person react?
- How would another person solve that same situation?
- If finally what I think was true, what is the worst that can happen to me? Is it worth it to get ahead of the hypothetical consequences? Is it really a catastrophe?
- After questioning your thoughts, ask yourself again: From 0 to 100, what is the degree to which I believe that thought?
Now and taking advantage of the answers you have given to the previous question elaborate an alternative and more realistic way of thinking, you will see how it changes what you feel and therefore what you do.
“He who suffers before it is necessary suffers more than necessary.”
7-Do does not try not to think
Many times you try to avoid thinking to not have a bad time. We strive to avoid not thinking, to get that out of our heads. The result is that the opposite happens, that thought becomes more present and takes more strength.
A thought is nothing more than the connection of neurons, it has no entity as such come and goes. If you give importance to it, let’s say that you are reinforcing that connection and therefore the brain will misinterpret it as important.
Imagine that I tell you not to think of a white bear, to make an effort not to think of a white bear to try by all means not to think about it, please. Surely the first thing that came to mind is that white bear, so you did the opposite of what I told you. If you have always tried not to think about that concern, and the opposite has happened, again and again, try to self-impose the opposite.
Let the thoughts flow, do not be afraid because you think strange things, if you do not give importance these will weaken on their own.
That he knows that we all think a huge amount of things a day, due to our imaginative capacity that we bring as a series, and that from this we think comes true in a very small percentage. So give free rein to your imagination and do not issue it, it can even be fun.
8-Practice a correct breathing
When we feel fear or anguish our breathing becomes short and fast. This causes our pulsations to fire and the danger signal reaches the brain. Spend at least 20 minutes a day practicing diaphragmatic breathing.
Go to a quiet place and lie on your back in a comfortable way. Become aware of your breathing, take a breath through your nose and focus on storing it in your stomach by swelling it. Hold for 5-6 seconds and breathe in through your mouth.
A trick is to put an object over the navel and try to raise and lower, this way the diaphragm will be exercised. This is usually contracted by excess tension which I recommend to decontract it by going to a physiotherapist, you will see that you will notice the difference.
9-Learn relaxation techniques
A very used technique is the progressive relaxation of Jacobson. It is a psychophysiological method, which involves deliberately and systematically tensing and relaxing groups of muscles to achieve two fundamental objectives:
- Eliminate muscle contraction.
- Replace it with a state of deep relaxation.
Basically, this type of relaxation consists of learning to tense and then relax, sequentially, several muscle groups throughout the body, while at the same time carefully and rigorously directing attention to the sensations associated with tension and relaxation. In this way we make conscious the sensations of excessive tension and the difference of these and the sensations of relaxation.
To do this, sit as comfortable as you can, keep your head straight on the shoulders and your back should be touching the back of the chair. Place your legs apart without crossing them and fully support your feet on the ground. Put your hands on your thighs and then focus on making your breathing conscious.
Start by tensing your forehead for a few seconds and focus on feeling tension, then let go and feel the difference. Then we close the fist of the hand and we tense it with force, we maintain a few seconds and then we open the fist and we will feel the difference.
So with all the muscle groups. You can find a video on YouTube where you explain it in more detail and take advantage of its benefits.
This last step is very important. You should exercise and feel your body, see that the activation that occurs is normal and that it has nothing to do with the symptoms of anxiety. As you exercise more frequently and focus your attention on the activity itself, anxiety will soon weaken.
These steps are the ones I have seen of many cases that I have had in a consultation that work and that if the person commits to perform them and stop to reflect will achieve results.
And have they worked for you? What are your problems with anxiety? I’m interested in your experience to Thank you!
Case study to calm anxiety
Two months ago an email came into my inbox of a girl asking how to calm the anxiety.
He told me that he was sweating alone with going out and felt that he was clenching his chest, he had been like that for a year now and it was getting worse with his family problems and during the exam period.
Also, he got much worse when he had to go out and talk in public and he had a couple of subjects in which it was obligatory to do so in order to pass.
The steps that the girl followed were the following:
– Relaxation techniques: I taught him the techniques of autosuggestion and progressive muscle relaxation. From the day after the conversation began to practice 15 minutes per day every day of the week.
– Exhibition: I asked that although I was afraid to speak in public, I would try to do it starting with small tasks. Therefore, we made a list of situations that caused anxiety in public speaking. He began by asking questions in class, continued with participating in small class dynamics and finished with work expositions.
– Control your negative thoughts: in terms of leaving home and feeling anxious, I told you what I thought when I left. I usually had very negative thoughts and based on the discussions, concerns, and problems I had. For example, “I’ll never get along with my parents”, “I’m going to suspend the exam and I’ll have to spend the summer studying.” I asked him to make a list of those thoughts and replace them with more realistic and positive ones like “I’m going to find a way to get along with my parents, to improve my behavior” and “whenever I study for an exam, I approve.”
-Finally, to be distracted I told him that one solution is to practice sports. This girl had friends who moved in environments that worsened their anxiety and when she was not with them, she was at home studying or in college. Therefore, I was always in tension environments. Practicing sports helped him to :1) keep the mind distracted for an hour. 2) decrease anxiety; sports improves and prevents anxiety and 3) making new friends and building more constructive relationships.
On Thursday we were talking and he told me that he has improved a lot. He continues with his small discussions at home although he has learned to control himself with relaxation and control of his thoughts. As for public speaking, he still feels anxious but is forced to participate in class or go out to speak in public every day. In addition, although he started with the gym, he has signed up for a basketball team of his faculty.
In exchange for giving him these little tips, I asked him to do me a simple favor: write me what has helped him the most in these two months. Here I leave it:
– Control your thoughts: when you feel anxiety you do not know how it starts, it’s there, you start to sweat, your pulse increases, you feel nervous and even your stomach turns over. What has helped me most to calm my anxiety, is without a doubt to control my thoughts and make myself aware of them; Tell me positive things and when I start to tell myself negative things, question them.
Those thoughts with which anxiety begins are always there but we are responsible for letting them influence us or not. When you have one, think that it is one more, question it and replace it with a more realistic and positive one.
– Relaxation: one of the things that Alberto taught me is that if I relax it is impossible to feel anxiety at the same time. I had never thought about it, so he encouraged me to practice those techniques. With these techniques you say positive things while you breathe deeply and relaxed and help you know how to distinguish when you are relaxed or when you are tense. Another advantage is that if you practice enough, you learn to relax quickly in the situations that cause you the most anxiety.
– Patience: two months ago I felt much more anxiety than today. Anxiety can be controlled, although it needs to be done step by step and with a plan. Today I still feel anxiety but I do not have that discomfort before having it; I accept it and do what I have to do by controlling it. I’m not thinking about my anxiety all day, only that it’s one more thing I can improve on.
– Tell me about anxiety : Alberto taught me two very important things: 1) that when you feel anxiety, you release adrenaline in your blood and that most of the time it is not related to things that happen outside. 2) Anxiety occurs in situations in which we believe that something bad can happen to us.
Now when I feel anxious I think first of what negative thoughts I am having, what I think will be wrong. And I know that anxiety and those uncomfortable feelings are caused by adrenaline, not something external that is happening or something bad that is going to happen to me.
– Exercise: today I could not live without exercising. It’s a dead time in which he sees everything forgotten and I have fun. It shows the physical and mental well-being, I come home more relaxed and I sleep better. It has also helped me make good friends in college.
I hope this experience has helped you and we hope you will comment on your cases and what has served you.