Here are five mindset tweaks for reducing Anxiety. Backed by science and advocated by many mental health professionals.
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I suffer from anxiety — generalized anxiety disorder. And because I’ve been dealing with it for so long, I’ve developed and incorporated a lot of tools to help me manage it. Some of them I developed on my own; while some of them I learned from others. The thing they all have in common, though, is that they are backed by science and advocated by many mental health professionals.
Of course, lifestyle changes can help with anxiety: things like getting sufficient sleep and exercising regularly. Many people find that cutting back on caffeine and sugar, and eating a healthy diet also help. And, there’s always medication if necessary and helpful.
There are also several mindset tweaks that can help reduce or handle anxiety. Here are five strategies that work for me, and you can try:
1. Recognize Its Purpose
Anxiety has a purpose. We are anxious, in general, as a way to keep ourselves safe. Our anxiety tells us to constantly think about what could go wrong so we are prepared to handle it when it happens. It comes from a good place, but it can overwhelm us and make life worse – not better. But recognizing that our anxiety is rooted in a place of helpfulness can enable us to have a better relationship with it.
2. Develop a Friendly Relationship with Anxiety
Because our anxiety is present as a maladaptive way to protect us, we can learn to embrace it and develop a friendly relationship with it. I like to do this by imaging my anxiety as a little girl who worries about everything, constantly pointing out what could go wrong so that I’m never caught off-guard. When I approach my anxiety in this way, I can befriend it. I can be grateful for the care that anxiety is trying to provide, and then I can let it go, knowing that I can handle whatever happens.
3. Embrace Uncertainty
Of course, anxiety often stems from a fear of the unknown coupled with a fear that we cannot handle what might happen. Recognize that uncertainty is a normal part of life and that you can handle whatever comes your way. Rather than trying to control everything, focus on building resilience and problem-solving skills. Embrace the idea that not everything has to be perfect or predictable for you to survive. And with these skills, you may even thrive!
4. Challenge Negative Thoughts
Anxiety often involves negative thinking patterns and catastrophic predictions. Challenge these thoughts by examining the evidence for and against them. Ask yourself if there is a more realistic or balanced way to view the situation. Remember that anxiety tends to make things seem worse than they actually are, and consciously reframing your thoughts can help reduce its impact. I find that talking to someone else, or journaling, about my catastrophic thoughts is very helpful. While a thought inside my head may seem totally reasonable, once it’s on paper or out of my mouth, it often seems more drastic and less likely to be true.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. When anxiety arises, try to observe your thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them. Bring your focus to your breath or engage in meditation to anchor yourself in the present. Regular mindfulness practice can help you become more aware of anxious thoughts and better equipped to manage them. Remember, thoughts are not facts and we don’t have to follow them, act on them, or even believe them.
Everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique, and it may take time to find what works best for you. Be patient with yourself and practice these mindset tweaks consistently to gradually reduce and manage anxiety more effectively.
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