When you are feeling anxious, there are a number of things you can do to decrease the tension and get back to life as you know it. Remember that you can feel panic even if the source of your anxiety is not immediately present, because sometimes stress just floats out there for a little while, trying to get your attention.
Fear can control us, but you have more power over it than you may think. Here are a few exercises you can do to feel better about yourself in anxious situations.
Get your anxiety out on the table: If you are in a relationship, you can do this exercise with your partner. You also can do it with anyone in your life who is a good listener.
Step 1: Look at and talk about the worst-case scenario. Get all your feelings and fears out on the table. Be sure to discuss what you’d do in the worst-case scenario and how serious the consequences would be.
Step 2: Talk about the best-case scenario and revel in all that it brings you. Take a moment to really soak in all of the positive changes that may happen.
Step 3: Look at what’s most likely to happen. While you can’t be certain, it’s reasonable to expect that most of these scenarios will fall somewhere in the middle of the worst- and best-case scenario. Remember that the results are also largely dependent on what you make of what happens.
Going through this process will decrease any anxiety you may be feeling and help you embrace the positives in your life. Taking this tried-and-true action will yield positive results.
Be proactive about your anxiety. Some people take supplements like fish oil, or they drink chamomile tea to help them relax. Daily exercise is also a great anxiety reducer. So is meditation, if you would rather be less physically active.
Avoid the news and watch a comedy instead. Events you see on TV or read in the papers may trigger your anxiety. I’m not suggesting you live in a cave, but if you are having a nervous day, it might be best to do something more pleasant than watching the news. Once you learn what brings on your anxiety, it will help you avoid the unexpected bouts.
Remember the places that make you feel peaceful inside. Being by water or in nature is very calming for many people. Sometimes reading a book by the pool can be as good as reading one in the mountains. The trick is to find and then remember the places that make you feel most peaceful, and the next time anxiety hits you, go to a quiet spot and just imagine yourself back in your peaceful place. I know it sounds too simple, but it works very well.
Get your day going right. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is a brief meditation. Simply visualizing a peaceful day ahead and reminding myself that I am safe are helpful little tools that can make the difference between a nervous day and one of tranquility. I use this meditation technique throughout the day whenever necessary.
You don’t have to be a victim of anxiety. If these exercises don’t give you enough relief, please see a medical professional. Many medications can be helpful, and even if you don’t like the idea of pills, just talking with a doctor can be reassuring.
Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.” Follow his daily insights on Twitter at @BartonGoldsmith, or email him at Barton@bartongoldsmith.com.