Occasional worry is normal. We all fret about things like an incoming job interview, financial matters, and health concerns. But when worry starts to interfere with your day-to-day activities, and makes it difficult for you to focus on the present, then you may be experiencing generalized anxiety. While (general anxiety disorder) GAD is characterized by constant worry that is often unrealistic, it can also lead to physical symptoms such as muscle tension, restlessness, and sleep difficulty. Fortunately, there are ways to break the cycle of persistent worry.
We spoke with Terri Bowman, CEO of leading mental health services provider in Perth, Australia, who has helped us list some simple steps you can take to overcome anxiety and allow you to regain your quality of life.
Write down your thoughts
One of the simplest ways to deal with overwhelming worry is to have a healthy outlet in the form of a journal. By writing down your feelings and tracking your symptoms, you are able to recognize triggers, identify negative behaviors, and prioritize your concerns.
Keeping a journal is also useful in getting your thoughts together when your world feels like a chaos. Worries always seem worse in your head, so it helps to write about them to truly understand the situation, and think of a possible solution to the thing that is causing you stress.
Mindfulness is all about being aware of the present moment. It teaches you to become reflective rather than reactive, especially because it helps you recognize the motives and emotions that drive your behavior. Practicing mindfulness can counteract rumination because it keeps you from being stuck in a thought loop where you replay every experience to find a negative aspect to dwell on. To practice mindfulness, you must take some time out to focus on the here and now, and process the things that are happening without judgment. Your mind may wander while you try to pay attention to the present moment, but with enough practice, you can learn to consciously bring back your mind to the present.
Many of our worries come from trying to gain more certainty in life. For example, you worry about your upcoming business trip, trying to figure out anything that could go wrong so you can be more certain of a favorable outcome. But in the end, you still feel anxious because there is simply no way to guarantee the outcome of such situation or any other event in life. When your mind is filled with thoughts of the scary unknown, it’s easy to fall into the trap of overthinking. To minimize your anxious thoughts, it helps to accept that you can never be 100% certain about anything in life. Let go of your desire for certainty, and learn to adjust your comfort level with uncertainty.
Challenge your thoughts
There are ways you can challenge the barrage of negative thoughts that are making you feel down. Whenever you feel depressed or anxious, take a deep breath and reflect on your thoughts. Recognize that your self-talk is often skewed towards negative things, and that even though your inner voice makes the negative feel true, most often it’s just biased or incorrect. Once you start reflecting on your thoughts, you will discover just how exaggerated those negative perspective of things are.
These questions should help you evaluate your anxious thoughts:
1. What are the ways I can find out if what I’m thinking is actually true?
2. What could this situation mean aside from the explanations I have formed in my head?
3. What good thing can come out of this situation?
4. Is this way of thinking helping me to solve the problem?
5. What are the facts of the situation and what are my assumptions?
Simply by putting in a little time and effort to explore the anxiety coping strategies above, you’re taking the first step to regaining control over your anxious mind. If you follow these steps, there’s a good chance you’ll start to reduce your anxiety and take control back in your life. If you are concerned about any mental health issues you might be struggling with, you should always first consult a mental health professional.