How to take back power over your anxiety

With the epidemic we are currently going through, I have noticed that in my practice as a social worker, as well as those around me, many people experience an increase in their stress level, sometimes even

reaching the point of feeling anxious. Some clients have told me that they are experiencing anxiety for the first time in their lives, and feel powerless in the face of the extent it is happening in their lives. In fact, it becomes the cunning companion of the days and [appearance] of nights to those who live it, and they end up having a negative influence in most areas of their lives.

It manifests itself in the form of negative thoughts that invade their minds, especially when it is less busy (in the bathroom, while washing dishes, when listening to TV, before bed, when waking up at night, etc.). These thoughts represent anticipatory scenarios (expectations in the future) or rumination (return to the past) that take a large percentage and prevent them from being present in the present.

It can spin in a loop for shorter or longer periods, such as dragging a hamster that is running in its wheel which is particularly difficult to calm down. They end up feeling completely overwhelmed by all these confusing thoughts, and in the long run, this can lead to a state of burnout or depression. So, given the devastating effects of anxiety, how can we reduce its negative impact on our lives? How do we control our thoughts and find a normal life?

Recognize the signs of anxiety

Anxiety accompanies specific physical sensations that tell you that something is bothering you: fever, sweating, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, in your chest that can sometimes be accompanied by a lack of air, and tension in the shoulders or neck. Headache and more. If you pay attention to these red flags your body sends you, you can stop the increase in anxiety before it gets too great.

When you discover physical signs of stress, take the time to refocus on the present moment by focusing on your breathing. If breathing is not sufficient to reduce the physical sensation of stress, you can also focus on the perceptions that you discover with your senses: surrounding noise, what you see, smell, what you can touch with your senses, hands, or feet. You can recite it in your head or out loud, allowing you to reconnect with your body instead of getting lost in your disturbing thoughts. This exercise allows you to step back from your thoughts, which is essential when anxiety takes hold of your rational mind.

Deep breathing and exercising the senses also convince your mind that you are not in danger here right now, because the brain does not differentiate between real danger and imagined danger. The body reacts in the same way to the two alternatives, either by activating the survival response (or the sympathetic system), which generates an enormous flow of stress hormones in your body. This survival response does not subside until the brain is convinced you are safe (parasympathetic activation).

If the sympathetic system remains active for a long time, among other things when we are exposed to stress for a long period in a row, you will notice the emergence of various side effects: fatigue, restlessness, memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, decreased sexual desire, changes in emotions, migraines, high blood pressure, etc. So it is important to reserve at least one moment of pleasure or relaxation during the day to de-stress. These moments don’t have to be long — the more space there is for these small moments of pleasure in your daily life, the more beneficial effects you will feel on your mental health.

Take a step back from our thoughts

Have you ever noticed that we really have no control over our thoughts, even though most of us try really hard? Take the test. Try not to think about anything for two minutes. what’s going on? I bet an idea pops up sooner or later, whether you like it or not. Have you ever said to yourself, “You don’t have to think about this”? Did you succeed? Try it! I dare you not to think of a pink elephant … so what do you think?

The problem is not the ideas themselves, but the importance placed on them. We have an unfortunate tendency to believe what our thoughts tell us. But if you have a little storytelling, you’ll likely find that most of the stories you tell will definitely create a good entertaining book, but these stories rarely come true … I often ask my clients out of curiosity. We are keen to assess the percentage of scenarios they envision happening just as they are in reality. A lot of times, they’ll give me 5–20%. Then I ask them the following question: If you had a friend telling you false stories 80% of the time, would you still pay attention to what they tell you? The same applies to anxious thoughts.

We have to realize that our head is not always our best advisor, and thus we learn to criticize what he tells us rather than always believing it. The more interested you are in your projections or ruminating, the more space you occupy and the more life becomes. When a negative thought catches your attention, you can distance yourself from it by asking yourself if the thought might work for you in the here and now.

If not, thank your mind and refocus yourself on the present moment instead of feeling anxiety. Obviously, the more you practice undoing the stories your head tells you, the easier it will be to avoid anxiety traps, although there are likely to be times when you give up without you. . The goal is not to be perfect, but to learn to communicate with your body and environment as much as possible on a daily basis, to learn more and more to live in the present moment with full awareness, which is an increasingly difficult thing. 2021 given the mental burden and our very busy lives.

Make a list

If you are having trouble letting go of your anxiety, you can also try to differentiate the odds that your imagination will happen as you think. Make a list: your worrying thoughts on a piece of paper, surrounded by bubbles that contain other possible scenarios. You will find that most of the time there may be thousands of possibilities more than the ones you nurture (and even more than the ones you manage to put on paper). Even if you try to plan in detail what might happen, it won’t make a difference in the end because you have no control over the future.

I often use the following metaphor with my clients: Trying to gain control of something that cannot be controlled is as useful as trying to change the sides of a river with your physical strength alone. I can guarantee that you will exhaust yourself from the effort, as the river continues to flow its course … so if the situation is making you anxious, determine what power you have and what actions you can take to cope. Take action on these things, and anything you cannot control. You have to learn to accept it and let it go to avoid wasting your energy in a losing battle. You know, our energy is limited and precious, so it’s about focusing on the things that are really important to you in the here and now. This uses your energy wisely!

In short, anxiety is very insidious and can affect anyone. Its long-term effects are disastrous, both on physical and mental health. To free ourselves from his clutches, we must learn to recognize him when he tries to enter our daily life, and realize that our head is often not our best advisor, and thus take a step back from the stories he tells us. And we re-learn how to live in the present moment.

When it’s done, there is no miracle recipe for getting rid of anxiety in your life: There will always be risks in life that will help you.

It will be destabilizing, and you definitely can’t stop your mind from thinking (if anyone finds an on / off button, please call me!) However, you can choose to give your worrying thoughts less credibility and focus on what is important to you in the present moment. If you practice it a little every day, I promise you will quickly feel the liberating effect of ditching, and believe me, and you will taste it!

Remember, if you have symptoms of severe anxiety, there are professionals to help you: check if you have access to the free employee assistance program with your job, and consult your community’s resources. Your district or local CLSC, call the various helplines or find a psychotherapist in a private clinic who can help you with the difficulties you encounter. Sometimes the best way to help yourself is to accept that you need outside help.

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