Feeling anxious? Anxiety doesn't have to be negative, these simple tricks will help you to take control and harness the positive
Ever felt like a fraud in your own workplace? You’re certainly not alone. Everyday, even the most successful people worry that they won’t be able to make the grade – and their colleagues will finally realise it! Psychotherapists have a name for the feeling – it’s called Imposter Syndrome, and according to new research twice as many women experience it compared to men.
We all know that horrible anxious feeling. You feel overwhelmed and under pressure, everything is spiralling out of control and, before you know it, the knots in your stomach are unbearable. But this kind of anxiety doesn’t have to have such a negative effect. Some people, in fact, have learned to harness the positives of anxiety, relying on the adrenaline surge it causes to overcome life’s challenges and bring out their best. Here are six simple coping techniques which will help you to do the same…
Do you regularly wake up in the middle of the night worrying about that ever growing to do list? Try keeping a notebook and pen by your bed. Chronic anxiety sufferers often find that writing down that pressing worry helps to unburden the mind, aiding a more restful night’s sleep.
Turn negative anxiety into positive anxiety: Early morning anxiety can also trigger a Eureka moment or idea. Don’t rely on your brain to keep it safe until the morning, grab that pen and scribble it down immediately.
Anxiety is the body’s fight or flight mechanism. We’re taught throughout our life to face our problems head on, but sometimes giving yourself a break is more important. So, next time your stomach starts to churn – or the muscles in your neck start to ache due to stress – take five, get some air and then find a solution. You’re only human.
Turn negative anxiety into positive anxiety: Figure out exactly what triggers the panic and take action. If you have a plan to help get yourself out of the situation, and have some control over the outcome, then you are using anxiety positively. For example, if you’re stressing about affording an unbudgeted cost, be practical. Write down all your incomings and outgoings and go from there.
There is probably a reason why the situation you are in has made you feel anxious. When the brain faces perceived danger, it tries to stop the body in its tracks by releasing adrenaline. But feeling anxious is also a sign that a decision needs to be made, and fast. Don’t rush it. Take your time to mull everything over. Then come to the best solution for you.
Turn negative anxiety into positive anxiety: Always remind yourself that reality and thought are very different. Often our mind’s perception of a difficult situation is overblown compared to what will actually happen. Some people find writing down the worst-case scenario helps them to rationalise.
People who make anxiety work for them often use a form of self-therapy. Grounding is a calming technique therapists use. Visualise your favourite quiet place – it might be a beach or your garden – then think about how your mind and body feels when you’re there, what can you see, smell and hear? Instantly, you’ll feel more relaxed; your heart rate dropping back to a normal level. If you find it hard to concentrate, try listening to the sound of the sea or the noise of birds on your iPod. Distraction techniques can help too. Next time you’re feeling sick with dread, start counting to 100. It gives your brain something else to focus on.
Turn negative anxiety into positive anxiety: Learn to breathe properly. The book Breath in Action will teach you how. A regular yoga class will help too. Our breathing naturally mimics people near to us in social situations, so if someone starts panicking, excuse yourself.
Scientists have found that the body is stimulated by anxiety, and there’s a point where the brain can actually function better while under pressure. By tapping into it – like actors and athletes are trained to – you’ll feel more energised and motivated to achieve.
Turn negative anxiety into positive anxiety: See stressful situations in a different way. Create focus by ‘unplugging’ – turn off your phone or email if you can to prevent distractions, then take a few seconds to remind yourself just how brilliant you are. Come the end of the task, you will feel a sense of achievement rather than relief.
Positive anxiety is all very well, but sometimes nothing will shift that sinking feeling. If you’re constantly stressed out, struggling to function and often exhausted due to worry, it’s time to get some help. Talk to your GP.
Remember: There are more than 2 million people suffering from anxiety in the UK. You’re not alone.