6 ways to overcome anxiety

By on September 10, 2017


6 ways to overcome anxiety

6 ways to overcome anxiety

Alyssa Rose bodyandsoul.com.au

If you’re prone to anxious thoughts, feeling stressed or find yourself generally overwhelmed, these easy and practical strategies might help.

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We all feel anxious at times. Daily stressors like traffic jams and deadlines are enough to get anyone hot under the collar.

But if you find yourself unable to work effectively, socialise, travel, or maintain stable relationships, Dr Robert L. Leahy, fromthe International Association of Cognitive Psychotherapy, says you may be suffering from clinical anxiety.

More than one in ten Australians currently live with an anxiety disorder and 28 per cent of people will suffer from an anxiety disorder at some time during their life.

In fact anxiety is currently the most common mental health problem in Australia and those who suffer from it are also far more likely to become clinically depressed.

Identify unhealthy anxiety

When you feel anxious or stressed, whether it's physical or psychological, your brain thinks it's in danger and sends signals to your cells to release potent stress hormones.

"This process of chemical activation in the brain leads to the flight, fight or freeze responses," says Dr Leahy.

"Physical sensations and conditions related to this include:

  • Tension and headaches
  • Gastroenterological difficulties – diarrhea, upset stomach, difficulty holding food in, loss of appetite
  • Dizziness or tingling in the extremities – as blood rushes from the brain to the legs
  • Muscle aches and fatigue – eventually the body is exhausted from the increased tension
  • Insomnia – a frequent consequence of all of the anxiety disorders"
Overcome anxiety in 6 steps

There are a number of practical steps to take in dealing with anxiety. The following 6 steps are Dr Leahy's recommendations:

1. Recognise what your anxiety is and what triggers it – your anxiety may be fear of meeting people, traveling, fear of heights, talking with your boss, worrying about the future, etc.

Keep a Feelings Diary and record situations, symptoms and thoughts that make you feel uneasy, dizzy, nauseated, unable to sleep, etc.

2. What are your thoughts when you are anxious? Try to identify specific thought distortions. In cognitive therapy we often recognise anxiety as the result of biases in thinking.

These include:

  • Fortune-telling – 'something bad will happen'
  • Mind-reading – 'he thinks I am a loser'
  • Catastrophic thinking – 'it would be terrible if'
  • Personalising – 'she's yawning because I am boring'

These are likely to reflect your perception of threat and the belief that you need to control things.

3. Challenge your negative thinking. There is always a different way to view things. Look at the evidence for and against your negative thoughts. Challenge these thoughts. Ask yourself "what kind of advice would I give a friend?"

4. Practice your fear. Identify some of the situations that are bothering you. Visualise in detail facing the fear and getting through it. Then gradually practice doing something that you fear doing. Your fears are generally worse than the reality.

5. Be willing to be anxious in order to overcome anxiety. You can't get past it if you aren't willing to go through it.

6. Accept imperfection and uncertainty. You don't have to be perfect to make progress. You don't have to know something for sure in order to do it. Doing it is better than worrying about it.

Dr Robert L. Leahy is a recognised worldwide as one of the most respected writers and speakers on cognitive therapy.

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or needs help, call Lifeline on 131 114, Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. In an emergency, call 000. For a correct treatment plan, book an appointment with your GP.

For more information on mental health and treatment options, visit Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute, Lifeline, RUOK or Headspace.

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