My father-in-law used to struggle with anxiety. He was medicated for it, and found that at the end of that trail was simply more anxiety than the doses of medication could account for.
My husband has dealt with anxiety as well. The problem that we all face is the question, “What is it going to take for me to recover from my anxiety or at least have the sense that I have joy in my life?” I did some in-depth research and came up with a list of 21 little known things you must take into account when trying to cope with anxiety.
So, what is the best way to recover from anxiety and regain confidence? The best way to recover from anxiety is to go to work on the beliefs surrounding the thoughts that result in your experiencing the (often debilitating) body sensations and worries that come along with anxiety.
What you can do today about your anxiety – Could this be part of the solution?
First, a little disclaimer. If you feel like you want to hurt yourself, please stop reading here and call emergency services. Trust me. If you feel this way, it’s time to reach out. Further, if you are dealing with clinical anxiety, I recommend you talk to a clinician specializing in this area. I’m not a trained professional. I have simply dug up as much research as possible to hand you some tips that you may find helpful.
With that out of the way, let’s dig into everything I could pull together on dealing with anxiety.
1. What is the relationship between anxiety and fear, depression, or anger?
When it comes to overall happiness, it is said that there are 4 building blocks that must be kept in check in order to experience joy.
So, one of the keys to creating a life that is fulfilling and filled with joy is to go to work on your own anxieties, and creating a road map to deal with them if they constantly set you back.
Unfortunately, misery loves company when it comes to the four blocks mentioned above, and it can feel like a slippery slope sliding into a convoluted mess of all four.
Where can we begin? Let’s look at what drives anxiety.
2. What drives and fuels your anxiety?
Anxiety is driven by your secret thought life. It’s the thought life that is wondering right now if you have a secret thought life.
It’s the constant rhetoric in your head, judging and assessing everything that is going on in your life. From being cut off while trying to get a parking spot to observing an argument at a big box store, your mind is constantly serving up a story about what is taking place.
Since part of the human condition is to think in narrative, our minds are great at creating stories out of situations.
One that comes to mind is from a young man (let’s call him Jack), who started sharing that he feels like no one ever listens to him. He explained a situation at work, in which, he told a colleague to do something, and it was totally ignored. Ignoring his advice resulted in a problem for the customer and the company.
He left that situation, wondering why his words were ignored. It seemed to happen to Jack all of the time.
When he was asked the first time he could remember being ignored, he paused and thought about it for a moment.
Jack said, “Oh, I know… I was ten. My brother and I went swimming at a popular lake, and after playing for a bit, I noticed he was missing. I looked for him and couldn’t find him. I called for help. I feared my brother had drowned.”
Jack paused for another moment, “When the authorities arrived, I tried to tell them where I thought he was, but they wouldn’t listen. They spent all afternoon searching for him.”
Jack continued, “I made several attempts to let them know, but each time they implied that they knew best. Later on that day, they found him. Right where I told him I thought he was. Ever since that day, I find myself in situations in which no one listens. It is so frustrating.”
Jack had developed an internal dialogue that went something like this, “I don’t know why I try (helping, telling people, trying to coordinate), no one ever listens to me.
While I don’t know whether Jack suffered from anxiety, what I am pointing to is identifying your own internal dialogue. Determine what you say to yourself, when you talk to yourself.
3. What is the importance of reflection and anxiety?
You need to get clear on what triggers your anxiety. The first moment it occurred for instance is a good place to start. What were the circumstances?
If you start there, and you know exactly that first moment, you will gain access to attempt to rewrite the script on the story. Usually when we experience traumas that result in the incessant anxiety loop, we make up a “story” in our heads about what happened.
We repeat the story until it is hard-grained and we see it as fact. Even now, you might resist me telling you that you were the one that gave the trauma the meaning you assigned, even if you feel it was out of your control (which is most likely was).
Gaining power around it however is all about taking action and rewriting the story now from your adult perspective.
Begin (maybe a journal entry) or recount what happened from a purely factual perspective. Leave out all of the reasons it happened, why you were a victim, etc.
Simply look at it for what really happened nothing more.
In my case, one of the most traumatic instances for me was when I was 11 years old. My house burned down. Luckily, we were all safe, but we were homeless for months and I stayed with friends and family.
I began to have panic attacks around being somewhere where the home, house/ residence catches on fire. What’s worse is that it would somehow be my fault.
So in this case, in order to separate out the facts. I might write down or recall that I went into the dining room and there were large flames from floor to ceiling and that the house eventually burned down to the ground.
That’s it. It wasn’t personal. It had nothing to do with me. I wasn’t cursed. I was afraid.
Revisiting that day, I can start to envision it with a distance. Likewise, ask yourself what else was going on that day.
What were the sounds you didn’t notice until you now think about it. What was going on visually? What did you smell? Maybe you’ll notice something that you never thought about before.
For me, I realized later on that I was being held by a neighbor, whose loving arms were there for me, and I was safe.
How could you repaint the moment and begin to tell yourself a new story about what happened and what it meant.
For me, I can tell myself that I was always safe.
4. How do you clear your mind of anxiety triggers?
As discussed in the previous point, you have the power to create a new story. Out of that story, you can create a new possibility of how the experience shaped your life for the better.
Consider that you created the first story, so you have the power to create a new story. Rewrite the script of what it means that this trauma happened.
If you can’t think of an isolated event start by going back to the time you experienced the last anxiety episode. What were the circumstances. What was going on and what did you make it mean?
5. What are the ABCs of dealing with Anxiety? Dr. David Thomas, a psychotherapist from Tampa, FL mentioned in his YouTube video about recovering from anxiety the importance of using what he calls the ABC model:
What is the ABC model?
The ABC model is an acronym which stands for:
A (Activating Event – What triggers the anxiety)
B (Beliefs more specifically evaluative beliefs) and
C (Consequence: What you do as a result of the anxiety, lack of concentration, muscle tension, avoidance, etc.)
The goal here is to challenge the beliefs that are driving the thoughts that produce the anxiety, distinguish irrational thinking and grow from it.Dr. David Thomas – YouTube (How to Control Anxiety Disorder)
6. What role does the subconscious mind play?
Often we are not aware of what drives us. Discovering what is going on the subconscious mind is as easy as understanding a very important principle. What we do is a result of what we believe.
So, if I am unwilling to leave the house when it is raining, I must hold a specific belief about being outside when it rains. When you unpack it, you can uncover the belief that is driving the behavior.
If you find yourself dealing with anxiety and sit down in a quiet place and really look at why that is happening, you may be able to uncover the belief that is driving the behavior.
Once you isolate the belief, you can start asking the question about how rational the belief is. Sometimes I find it helpful to imagine someone else were to have that belief. What would I tell them?
This can help give you a more objective viewpoint on your anxiety.
7. How can we better understand the mind so we can work on our anxieties?
I understand that getting your head around how the mind works can be difficult. One of the reasons for this is because we don’t really have a good picture of the mind (what it is, or how it works).
My most recent mentor, Bob Proctor, introduced me to this concept. He said, “If I were to ask you what color your front door is, you could close your eyes and go to your front door in your mind and describe in elaborate detail exactly what color your front door is, where there are inconsistencies in the paint, etc. “
Bottom line is that our mind thinks in pictures.
But if I were to ask you to describe to me the “mind,” chances are you might draw a bit of a blank. You may be inclined to suggest the brain, but your brain isn’t your mind any more than your hand is.
Your brain is a piece of the puzzle, not the collective identity of the puzzle. Your mind is the puzzle.
A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a way to visualize the mind that is extremely powerful. It made all the difference in understanding how the mind works, how it operates and more importantly how you can go to work on limiting beliefs or beliefs that don’t serve you.
I recently used this to completely transform my appearance. At the time of this writing, I have lost over 25lbs, learned to do pull-ups and even a chest-to-bar pull-up.
My waist is the tiniest it has been in ten years, and I have realized that my external appearance is a reflection of how my mind operates and how I feel about myself on the inside.
Up until now countless people have told me how to lose weight, get in shape, etc. but for some reason I was powerless to make it really happen. Up until now I had tried everything, and I’m not joking. I’ve seen a weight loss doctor, had multiple gym memberships, multiple personal trainers, used appetite suppressants, starved myself, even was bulimic at one point.
I suffered from a food addiction and for the first time in my life, food doesn’t control me. Further the limiting belief of, Kat, you aren’t worth it, and you don’t have any value, has been shelved.
I look in the mirror now and like what I see, and I don’t have to convince myself why I “should” like myself.
What made this type of quantum leap possible? Short answer: the StickMan.
Let’s look at the following illustration. I am going to share with you about how I have come to know the StickMan, and how it affects every aspect of your life.
8. How to understand the StickMan?
My mentor Bob Proctor taught me how this works, and now I am going to share it with you.
The basics of how this works is as follows:
Do you see the antennas sticking out of the top of the images head? Those represent the 5 senses. Each one is like a six lane highway delivering information to your conscious mind at all times.
Your conscious mind is the reasoning mind. Here you can make decisions about what you accept and don’t accept. Over time with enough repetition, the information filters from your conscious mind into your subconscious mind.
The subconscious mind is the “executive factor” and executes on what lives there. Just like the Bible says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” you can look at this the same way.
Whatever lives in your subconscious mind (your heart, your spirit man), drives your behavior and manifests what the body does.
For me I had to realize that my self-image had to change away from the chubby / fat girl with the food addiction with no value to the woman I have always secretly dreamed I could be, but had convinced myself that there were to many obstacles standing between me and that ideal image.
9. Who was Dr. Thurman Fleet, and why should you trust what he had to say?
First, it is important to understand that he was a decorated war veteran. He earned distinguished medals such as the purple heart. He demonstrated bravery in the face of devastating battles.
He was told by army medics that he had one year to live due to his war injuries after returning as a young soldier, and by seeking medical care from a chiropractor was able to turn his health around.
He studied to become a chiropractor after he saw what chiropractic care did for him. Eventually, he was not satisfied with the results his patients got and so he began testing new methods.
He realized that there was an advantage to treating the individual as a whole and carefully tracked the results of 1800 patients before others began to take significant notice of his methods.
It was during this time that he created the stickman. It was in order that others could get a sense of how he addressed a person’s mind, body and soul.
He felt that nature did the healing, not the physician. It was only when the individual got into proper alignment with nature that it could start the process of bringing about better health and well-being for his patients.
10. What role does the internal dialogue play in producing anxiety?
As we discovered how things that are dripped on the conscious mind for long enough eventually make it down to the subconscious, it’s important to recognize what your internal thought life is like and what you tell yourself on a regular basis.
Maybe you say something like. Oh, I’ll never be good enough. Or, I will suffer from this anxiety forever. Or, I’m doomed.
Once you identify some of these “stories” we repeat to yourself, the idea is to change them. Create new habits and stories you tell yourself.
11. Using the ABC method in discovering how to resolve anxiety?
As we identified earlier, distinguish what the “activating event” is that causes your anxiety, and start looking the commonality among the events.
Then, begin to examine the beliefs and whether they are rational or potentially irrational.
Finally, consider what those beliefs cause you to do. Do you avoid driving in certain areas, avoid crowds, procrastinate, etc. Look at the limitations that the belief system is having on you.
Challenge yourself to consider how this belief system is serving you or if it isn’t serving you at all.
12. What are the most common debilitating symptoms of anxiety?
Here we are talking about common symptoms that many people experience when plagued by anxiety. Here is a short list and by no means does it include everything.
- Lump in your throat
- Tightness in your chest
- General sense of being uneasy
- Feeling like something dreadful happened
13. How to deal with the symptoms?
Often the best place to start is to acknowledge that these feelings are telling you a lot about what is going on in your subconscious mind. You will need to accept the feelings and understand that these body sensations that you are experiencing don’t actually mean that anything bad is happening.
When you feel these sensations, ask yourself what you aren’t noticing and then explore your 5 senses and see what they are telling you.
What are you hearing (in addition to the body sensations and symptoms you are experiencing). Pretending the symptoms aren’t there isn’t a good strategy. Acknowledge the body sensations and thank them for letting you know that you should be on alert. Then focus on what “else” you are feeling.
14. Quick guide to reprogramming your mind?
Remember when I mentioned to you that the ideas that we hold in our conscious mind for long enough eventually begin to make their way down into our unconscious mind?
That little tidbit holds the key to what is necessary to reprogram your mind.
It’s something called: Spaced-Time Repetition.
Start consciously holding in your minds-eye what it is you want. While at first, you may resist it, you will find that over time, it will finds its way into your subconscious.
Look don’t take my word for it. Consider for a moment how much big companies pay for advertising, over and over again. I am sure you would agree with me that by now most people know what a big mac is. So why would advertisers continue to advertise over and over again?
It’s REPETITION. Repetition turns into indoctrination, and indoctrination that has transferred into your subconscious results in you making choices about what you are going to eat when you are just getting off of work and somehow managed to miss lunch altogether.
That’s why –
I recommend “writing the script of your life.”
Make a dedicated effort to write down what you want your life to look like 2 years from now. Describe it in as much details as you can imagine. This is a great time to be a little absurd.
For me, I wrote down a weight goal and pasted a picture of a bikini model up on my office wall.
Guess what I noticed the other day?
I had colored my hair almost exactly like the bikini model in the photograph on my wall.
Coincidence? Nah, not when I look at it every day. It’s just that I didn’t realize I had done it until I noticed it when my husband were talking about the image the other day.
It’s pretty cool how the subconscious mind drives the body to take the actions it takes.
Use this to your advantage.
Once you have written down your life script, now you will want to engage in the repetition part. Read it every day. Dictate it onto your smart device and listen to it on the way to work every day (possibly several times per day).
Commit to doing this for 45 days, and see if you don’t notice shifts in your life
15. What about GAD?
GAD stands for General Anxiety Disorder. This is what WebMD has to say about it:
Generalized anxiety disorder (or GAD) is characterized by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for worry. People with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder tend to always expect disaster and can’t stop worrying about health, money, family, work, or school. (source: https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/generalized-anxiety-disorder)
If this describes you, I recommend you have a conversation with your therapist to determine which aspects of this article would be a synergistic fit with the therapy you are undergoing.
16. Signs that your anxiety can be managed.
This is where I recommend you approach your situation with a ton of grace. See where things are shifting for you. I remember when I started to employ some of the methods I discuss above, there were people who said, it couldn’t be done.
The owner of my gym told me, “Yeah, you just want to look good for your wedding.” Once you get through that, we will never see you in this place.”
My husband told me the he believed the same thing. His reasoning was that he had seen the pattern in the past.
I held my ground and told him, “I’ve changed on the inside. You don’t know me anymore. You might not be able to see it, but I know I’ve changed.” That was over 4 months ago and 8 inches off my waist ago.
I believe if I can do it, you can change absolutely anything about yourself given the right approach.
Look for the little wins. Visualize your having what it is that you want. You want peace. You want calmness of mind. See yourself as already having it.
If you have this on repeat in your mind, you will notice other like thoughts grouping together.
Each morning when I get up I write down 10-20 things I’m thankful for. This gratitude journal has shifted my focus from what I don’t want to what I love about my life.
Words and ideas truly can shape your life and your present circumstances.
17. An ELF can guide you on discovering what to change
In addition to the ABC method, Dr. David Thomas introduced the idea that you can use the ELF acronym to challenge your beliefs and eliminate irrational thinking.
ELF stands for:
E (Empirical Data) Big word for: Is this Fact or Fiction?
L (Logical?) Does it make sense to have this thought?
F (Functional) Does it keep you out of danger?Dr. David Thoma
Let’s dive into an example. I’ll use my own weight loss as an example. Consider that I grew up in an impoverished area. Food was scarce. There were times we simply didn’t eat.
Evaluating your beliefs using E.L.F
For me access to food became everything. After we had moved to the U.S. and even when food was in abundance, I ate as if it were going to be my last meal for a while and I might not have access to food for a while.
The thought was: “Food is scarce.”
Distinguishing Fact from Fiction (Empirical Data)
Looking at the (empirical data) fact or fiction aspect, I’m surrounded by food and access to it.
So this is indeed fiction given my current circumstances.
Deciphering whether it is logical
Is it logical for me to continue thinking that food is in limited supply? While it may be understandable, there really isn’t a moment these days where I couldn’t hop in the car and go grab a bite to eat.
So given these circumstances, this isn’t logical.
Does the belief that food is scarce protect me somehow? Does it further my survival? Does it keep me safe?
In this case, no, not at all. It used to serve me when I was young, but carrying this into adulthood has been more detrimental than anything.
So, once again, it does not serve a purposeful function.
18. Using the power to create to manage anxiety
One of the things to recognize is that you have created your own thoughts and shaped your own behavior. No one did it, but you. So if you feel stuck, you CAN get unstuck.
It’s important to take responsibility for your thoughts. Recognize that although it may feel like you are a prisoner to the Uber driver of your mind, locked in and someone else has the keys, you can take back control.
The first step is taking ownership of your thought life. This is a good place to start working through with a counselor.
Run down the ELF list and evaluate your beliefs, then through repetition start forming new beliefs.
19. How to decrease exponential negative thinking:
Consider that thoughts are magnetic in a way. Negative thoughts tend to attract more negative thoughts and vice versa. When you find yourself tied to the negative thought train, call time-out.
It’s time to reshape what you are thinking about. I do this with my gratitude journal.
At one point, I wasn’t happy in my marriage. I was considering starting over. The negative thoughts were piling up. I began to only see the negative in my life surrounding my marriage.
I’ll spare you the details, but what I did to change it was that I sat down every day and began to list things about my marriage, for which I was thankful.
It completely changed my perspective. As I explored the things that were positive, I began to notice more positive aspects of my married life.
Here’s what I mean:
- Look around the room or area you are in right now.
- Take note of everything that is “brown” in color.
- Now grab a piece of paper and pen.
- While keeping your eyes closed, scribble out everything that you saw that was orange.
The concept here is that when you focus on one thing, you tend to focus on one thing.
20. The role of the 5 senses in coping with anxiety
Just like I’ve eluded to previously, it’s hard to focus on “other” things when you are hyper-focused on one thing. If you are hyper-focused on your anxiety, it’s going to be tough to notice other things that are a positive attribute of your life.
One way to get around this is to push pause on your hyper-focused anxiety and start asking yourself the questions:
- What am I hearing right now? (besides what is triggering the panicked feelings). Write it down somewhere. (Writing engages the thinking mind). Are there birds? Is there music? Is there the sound of a planes, cars, etc.?
- What am I seeing right now? Is it dark? Is it light out? Try to see how many things you can identify.
- What am I tasting right now? Maybe you can taste the residual of your coffee or soda?
- What am I feeling right now? Is there anything touching my skin? Is it a breeze? Is it cold? Is it hot? Is it soft? Is it course?
- What am I smelling right now? Is there a scent of perfume?
I think you get the idea here. Be as elaborate as possible. Then think of things you wish you could hear, see, taste, feel or touch right now. Change your environment.
Remember you have control of yourself and your environment. This is essential to building great self-confidence.
21. What is neuroplasticity and why is it good news for someone suffering with anxiety?
When I found about the concept of neuroplasticity, I felt relieved.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury. “neuroplasticity offers real hope to everyone from stroke victims to dyslexics”Dictionary.com’s definition:
This means that the brain is capable of creating neuro-pathways and create “work-arounds” for problems you might be facing.
The big take-away is that you are NEVER stuck without your consent. In Dr. Thurman Fleet’s yearbook, he wrote, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
After being told that he had one year to live, he found a way to change his health and lived to a full 88 years-old.
Likewise, I want you to be encouraged. This is not the end for you. It really is just the beginning.
What should you do if you have anxiety at work? I wrote an entire article on coping with anxiety at work. The cliff notes is that you should work to identify which aspects of your work environment that you perceive as threats and them tackle them one by one using the ABC and ELF methods.
In the article, I talk about feeling isolated at work, not having any friends at work and being the “newbie.” I think you will find it insightful. I spent a lot of time doing research on how you can make a difference for yourself.
How can you cope with driving anxiety? My parents were involved in a car crash and so was I on my birthday. Driving after an accident takes something.
Every time I drove by the place where it happened, I felt the anxiety begin to surge through my body.
I recommend you read through this article if you are dealing with confidence behind the wheel. Although you may not have been in an accident, I am sure there will be some good take-aways for you. Read it now.