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Six Simple Habits that Defeat Anxiety

By Mental Health Association San Francisco

If you’re like most anxiety sufferers, you probably spend much of your day wrestling with physical symptoms, feeling afraid, or even hiding your anxious feelings from others. When stressors arise your racing heart, trembling, dizziness, obsessive thoughts, and other symptoms take over.

Anxiety can keep you feeling trapped — and once you feel this way, it’s difficult to know how or if you can ever feel better.

If you suffer from anxiety, take heart. Studies show that simple anxiety-reducing habits can go a long way toward improving how you feel. Here are six simple habits you can use to defeat anxiety and take back control of your life.

Acknowledge your Anxiety

When you hide your anxious feelings for months or years, you perpetuate your anxiety by assuming it’s your fault. Anxiety is not your fault. There is nothing inherently wrong with who you are. You are a good, valuable, uniquely special person. You simply suffer from anxiety.

Acknowledge your anxious feelings. Share how you’re feeling with a trustworthy friend, partner, or relative. Talk to your doctor. Go to an online support group and talk with others about what you’re going through.

When you acknowledge your anxious feelings, you take an important step toward feeling better. Facing the truth can be very empowering because once you name the problem you can go about solving it. You open the door to learning how to feel better.

Learn Strategies to Immediately Deal with Symptoms

Educate yourself by learning strategies to immediately deal with anxiety symptoms. The National Institute of Anxiety and Stress has just made available free information that can help you reduce anxiety symptoms quickly, easily, and effectively.

Their free information contains audio and workbook exercises that show you:

How to stop intense anxiety using a simple three-step formula

How to deal with anxiety symptoms quickly

What to do when you’re having a panic attack

Use “Power” Language

Mind-body research shows that the words you use can have a powerful effect on how you feel. Most anxiety sufferers use negative words that destroy their self-esteem and promote a sense of loss of control. These are “victim” words. A few victim words include can’t, always, never, and should.

Victim words perpetuate your anxiety and fear. They create a negative self-fulfilling prophecy that results in anxious thoughts and physical symptoms.

You can learn to defeat anxiety by replacing victim words with “power” language. Power language means using words that promote your feelings of self-worth and personal power.

When you use power language, the statement: “I can’t control my anxiety” becomes “I can control my anxiety, and I’m learning skills to conquer it.” The statement: “Why do I always feel so anxious?” becomes “I often feel anxious, but not all of the time.” The statement: “I shouldn’t be late for dinner” becomes “I may be late for dinner. It’s unfortunate, but it’s OK.”

Tone your Inner Power Daily

Think of your inner power as a muscle just like any other muscle. The more you use it, the more toned it becomes and the more you can accomplish. Every time you practice a healthy life strategy, you actually increase your ability to conquer your anxiety. What you couldn’t do yesterday, you can do today. With practice, your new skills will become automatic. This is how you create lasting freedom from anxiety.

In the words of Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Set Small, Achievable Goals

Anxiety sufferers tend to set unrealistically high expectations for themselves. To counteract this tendency, set goals that you can easily accomplish. This builds your confidence and your sense of accomplishment.

When you are learning skills to handle stress and reduce your anxiety, small steps work best. For example, if your goal is to integrate deep breathing into your life, start by practicing for one-minute intervals three or four times a day instead of for an hour all at once.

Setting small, achievable goals will help will take you farther than you can imagine over time. It will help you reach your destination: a happier, low-anxiety life.

Realize that Now is the Perfect Time to Start Feeling Better

And finally, realize that your anxiety and fear will not go away until you stop waiting and start learning. There are many resources available to you to help you overcome your anxiety — books, courses, doctors, counselors, support groups, and more.

Some of you have been waiting for the “perfect” time to conquer your anxiety. You may be saying to yourself…” I can’t tackle my anxiety right now. I’ll wait until my symptoms aren’t so strong to make changes in my life.” Or … “I’ll start making changes when my life is less hectic.”

The list goes on and on.

 Here’s what I’ve discovered: You’ll be waiting a lifetime for these things to happen. Because when you wait for something else to happen to improve your life, you’re giving away your power. You feed your anxiety and feelings of loss of control.

The only perfect time to conquer your anxiety is right now…this moment. You do not need to feel symptom-free or confident or energetic, or anything else to begin. All you need to do is take the first step.

Practice these six habits daily, and you’ll see your skills improve as you take back your power from anxiety.

About the Author:

Deanne Repich is the Director of the National Institute of Anxiety and Stress, a teacher and learning expert, and a former anxiety sufferer. Deanne created the Conquer Your Anxiety Success Program, a simple, action-oriented “how-to” course that brings results. She also conducts seminars, writes articles, and publishes the FREE “Anxiety Tips” newsletter. 

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