It may not be accurate to say ‘cure anxiety’, but that aside, there’s a lot you can do to help yourself if anxiety is a problem for you. If listed some ideas below. First. let me get the ‘cure’ question out of the way:
Anxiety is a natural feature of our emotional terrain. It’s not an illness so there’s nothing to ‘cure’ (nor should it medicated, for that matter, in my view).
Second, anxiety plays an important part in our lives, and we should always pay attention to see if there is something we need to take notice of or change. Persistent anxiety may be an alert or warning signal. Ignore it and it can get louder.
But, anxiety also develops a way of its own (see The Logic of Anxiety), and some people are so troubled by it that in extreme cases it will shape their lives and limit their opportunities. It takes many forms and over 30 years as a therapist I’ve been continually amazed by the way people will just soldier on, struggling, until some ‘last straw’ event pushes them to seek help to cure anxiety. They are usually relieved when I explain that they don’t need a cure, but instead could consider a few changes to lifestyle and habits.
It’s a sad fact that the longer you leave it the greater anxiety’s hold can become, so the longer you leave it the harder it can be to rid yourself of it. Still, anxiety IS fixable, and there’s a lot you can do for yourself:
- Accept it. Daft though this seems this is good advice. Accepting something removes its power. Struggling to curb or suppress anxiety simply keeps it alive and wears you out in the process. No need to cure anxiety when you accept is as part of your makeup.
- Learn meditation, mindfulness, or relaxation. This is harder than it seems, but regular and consistent practice of any of these disciplines is a recommended route to training your body out of it’s anxiety habits by triggering balance and healthier responses in the body via the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Exercise: Anxiety has physiological roots – it activates part of the the autonomic nervous system – so exercise and care for your body is more important initially than trying to tackle it through the mind. You won’t think your way out of anxiety.
- Breathing exercises: Similar to the two activities above, with the advantage that you can do it anywhere. Learning breathing techniques not only gives you greater control, it also lowers blood pressure, counters stress, improves concentration and brings with it about 53 other advantages (get my free download below).
- Distract yourself by doing something you enjoy: Losing yourself in pleasant activity not only provides relief from anxiety, it can start to retrain you to do more of what you like. Anxiety is often triggered or kept in place by unconsciously held ‘rules’.
- Check out these ‘rules’: Look for ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ in your personal repertoire of beliefs. Examine them objectively. Challenge them with ‘who says?’ and similar questions. Chances are these are ‘rules’ that you have inherited; they have little or no relevance to your life today, and the sky won’t come crashing down if you break them.
- Do something new each day: Teach yourself that change and newness doesn’t spell disaster.
- Embrace uncertainty: Most of what we face each day is unknown. Accept it and celebrate the infinite richness of our world through discovery of the unknown. In practical terms this means focussing on new experience and finding things that fascinate you, rather than worrying about what might be lurking in dark corners (you can always carry a torch if you need to).
- Talk about it: I don’t mean bang on about it incessantly, but talking and sharing one’s anxieties with a sympathetic other can help reduce anxiety’s hold. Explain to them that you’d like to share, but that you are not looking for advice (you’ve probably already tried anything they could suggest, and if they think you are expecting them to come up with solutions they might get anxious too!).
- Learn how to build emotional resilience: If you are sensitive to what life throws at you (or dumps on you), you are bound to feel anxious. Learning to be more resilient is not complicated, but like the other ideas here it does require consistent practice. It helps in a number of ways, not just a way to cure anxiety. There’s a free download here: Personal Resilience – Small Steps to Big Change.
Best wishes, I know you can do it!
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