By Art Markman, Ph.D. for YouBeauty
Now I’m not saying this article is perfect, especially as a reader who experiences high “abnormal” levels of anxiety constantly. However, I feel the techniques suggested could be really useful! I like how they break it down into manageable pieces:
"What To Do When Anxiety Strikes
When you are feeling anxious, find a quiet spot. Make a list of the potentially negative things you are trying to avoid.
Next, ask yourself whether there is anything you can do about the items on your list.
Let’s start with the items on your list for which that answer is “No.” (That is, the things you cannot change.) When you stress about things you cannot do anything about, then you are indeed worrying too much. There is nothing you can do to affect the outcome, and so you need to find strategies to help keep you from dwelling too long, wallowing, or working yourself into an emotional tizzy.
You cannot simply tell yourself not to think about these things, of course. That does not work any more than you could tell yourself not to think about white elephants.
Instead, take about 20 minutes and write about the thing that worries you. There is a lot of research suggesting that when you write about the things that bother you, it helps to connect those thoughts to the rest of your knowledge in ways that makes it easier to stop thinking about them. Take your pen (or laptop) and think about what you are trying to avoid and why you think it is bad. Write it all down — what the problem is, why you think it’s a problem, how it makes you feel, where those feelings are really coming from.
It may not be fun to do the writing, but it helps in the long run, by allowing you to see your worries for what they are, not for what you’ve let them balloon into in your mind. The exercise often reveals that they are not as bad as you thought. Perhaps you’ll realize that it’s a smaller concern than it seemed at first and bound to blow over. Or maybe you’ll see that what caused you the anxiety in the first place is external to you (e.g. someone else’s opinion of you) and therefore not intrinsic to who you are or what you do.
For those things that you can do something about, there are two things to do to formulate a plan to address the issue.
First, think about whether these anxiety-provoking situations really have to be thought about negatively. For example, many people worry that they will not perform a task at work well enough, so they worry what other people will think about it. In those situations, there is nothing that has to be negative about the situation. You have chosen to focus on the potential negatives.
In those cases, focus yourself on the positives. Instead of imagining possible downsides, think about the benefits of what you are doing at work or what’s waiting for you at home. In this way, you flip yourself from feeling stress to feeling more joy and anticipation. That is a much more pleasant way to live your life than constantly trying to avoid catastrophe.
Once you have gone through this entire exercise, you are left with the things you really should be worried about — and they are all things you can do something about. So, use the energy that comes along with your anxiety to make a plan for how to deal with the problem or problems at hand. Then, with your plans in place, go out and exercise. Take all the pent up energy anxiety wrought and put it to good use. Let it out with a run, a game of Frisbee or a class at the gym. You’ll feel instantly better. And when you get back home, you’ll have nothing but a productive list of stress-abating to-dos waiting for you.”