6 Ways To Reduce Harmful Anxiety

Anxiety, in the right dose, can be your pal.

It can warn you when a situation is about to become scary or life-threatening.

It can motivate you when you are being challenged.

When anxiety becomes intense, it will not go away.

When It constantly interferes with the life you want to lead, it’s time to reduce harmful anxiety.

Here are 6 steps you can take to reduce harmful anxiety that feels like too much:

1. Catch your anxious responses early.

Be aware of the emotions that show up early when you are beginning to feel anxious.  Take control by naming them: Fear, worry, panic, powerlessness.  Prepare yourself to deal with them before they take over.

2. Break the pattern.

If you tend to have repeated anxious episodes brought on by worry, now is the time to break that pattern.  Allow yourself the time to worry and feel anxious, within reason.  Go ahead.  Run through all of your troublesome thoughts before they run over you.  Then put them away and get back to taking charge of your life.

3. Give up the idea of absolute certainty.

Accept the truth:  Some people and places will feel unsafe or uncomfortable.  Even though the possibility of something negative happening always exists, life can be good, and relationships can still be very rewarding.

4. Challenge your negative thoughts.

From Byron Katie, and “The Work,” we all have negative thoughts running through our minds.  The problems begin when we start to believe that those thoughts are true.  If you are “running” a negative thought, ask yourself these questions:

Question One: Is it true?

Question Two: Can I be 100 percent certain that it is absolutely true?

Question Three: How do I feel when I have that thought?

Question Four: How would I feel without that thought?

Assuming your answer to Question Four is something like, “A whole lot better,” turn your negative thought around to the positive opposite, and use that as your new mantra.

5. Honestly examine what you are doing to increase your anxiety.

Avoid situations that feed your tendency to become worried and upset.  Take a hard look at your sleep, work, and dietary habits, as well as the people you look to for support and companionship.  Decide to set healthier standards and relationship boundaries, and let go of anything or anyone who perpetuates your fear.

6. Use relaxation techniques to be in the moment.

Chances are your anxious thoughts include a lot of “Coulda, woulda, shoulda.” The past is gone.  What is done is done.  Aim to be in the present moment with meditation practices like deep breathing, visualization, or the practice of mindfulness, which encourages you to practice observing your anxious thoughts without trying to control them.  It may sound simple, but these meditation practices are very powerful ways to change how your nervous system operates, and they can change your life. 

If you are struggling with anxiety and would like some help with freeing yourself from its hold on you, I would like to help.  Please call or email me so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Linda K. Laffey, MFT

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