If you struggle with anxiety, the persistent, nagging emotions of “worrying” can be distressing and difficult to control. These emotions are usually strong and out of proportion to the actual difficulties and risks you face in your daily life. It might be difficult to function the way you’d like to at home, work, or in social situations.
The good news is that there are many ways to manage and control anxiety! The following are 8 simple steps to overcome your anxiety, and show your emotions who’s in charge!
Step 1: Identify Your Internal Motivation (aka: What’s Your “Why?”)
The first step to overcoming anxiety is to understand the emotional reasons as to why you want to overcome this fear or anxiety in the first place. This is critically important, as the more internally motivated you are to overcome your anxiety or fear, the better chance you stand at doing so.
Internal motivation is centered on your personal desires and needs. It is the driving force behind your thoughts and choices regarding every aspect of your life. Which is why you should sit down and really think about why controlling your anxiety would help you and about your personal goals, values, etc.
E.g. “Overcoming my social anxiety is important to me because I want to meet new people and make more friends.”
Step 2: Challenge Your Fears
The best way to conquer a fear is to face it head-on. In this step you should challenge your fears before, during and after doing any behavior that confronts your anxieties/fear. Consider any illogical and self-defeating thoughts or beliefs behind your fears. Our ideas have an influence on not just how we act and interact with the environment, but also how we view ourselves and, ultimately, what we feel we are capable of. This is why identifying and then challenging irrational or self-defeating thoughts are essential steps to overcoming your anxiety. You can use a small notebook or journal to fully challenge your irrational beliefs.
E.g. “When I walked in the room the group of people started laughing (fact). My first (automatic) thought is that they must be laughing at me (opinion, self-defeating, irrational thought). The reality is that I have no idea why they laughed (fact). And they probably laughed at something one of them just finished saying – not at me (acknowledging other possibilities).”
Step 3: Slowly Approach What You Are Afraid Of
In this step for overcoming anxiety, you should attempt to approach or do something you are afraid of. If your anxiety creates enough distress that it holds you back from doing things, confronting your fear will help you learn to cope with it better and eventually conquer it. The truth is, if you don’t face your fears in the flesh, you will never move from where you are.
During this step, your objective is to induce modest anxiety while keeping it still “tolerable.” This means that on a scale from 0 to 10 – with 0 being a state of “no anxiety” and 10 being the “worst anxiety imaginable – your anxiety should be around a 2 or 3. Create a list of fear-inducing activities, and rank them from least to most fearful for you. Start at the bottom and work your way up.
Each time you do this exercise, aim to go a little further and make yourself just a little bit more uncomfortable while keeping the rating of your anxiety to a 2 or 3. When you find yourself becoming comfortable at each new activity, practice deep breathing and relaxation until you’re at a 2-3, and then move forward until you find yourself somewhat uncomfortable again. Continue these exercises until you discover that your feelings of anxiety no longer exist.
E.g. “Today, I’m going to say ‘Hello. How are you?’ to at least one stranger I encounter.”
Step 4: Mentally Challenge Any Irrational, Self-Weakening Beliefs
While (or shortly after) you do your exercises in step 3, keep identifying and then challenging any irrational or self-defeating thoughts. Write them down! This helps you keep track as well as identify any themes in the way you think.
Also Read: The 4 Pillars of Good Mental Health
Step 5: Reward Yourself!
After the exercise make sure you celebrate, regardless of how well you did. Your main focus here is to celebrate the attempt, not the outcome. Take advantage of this chance to do something fun, relaxing, and utterly indulgent for yourself – you deserve it! Grab a notebook, or a piece of paper and list some of the things you did to celebrate. This will also act as a motivating factor to continue to overcome your anxiety or fear.
Step 6: Review Your irrational, Self-Weakening Beliefs On a piece of paper or a notebook, review or add to your irrational and self-weakening beliefs. You may consider starting a new one as well. When you review your list of beliefs, you keep them at the forefront of your mind. This way, you will ensure that your time, energy, and commitment is given to overcoming your anxiety.
Step 7: Engage In Relaxation Exercise
Relaxation exercises can help you reduce both physical and mental stress by diverting your attention away from whatever is bothering you, and putting you in a more positive frame of mind. This is because it is impossible to feel both fear and relaxation at the same time. Eventually the fear will diminish and relaxation will win out. You can find loads of resources on the Internet for guided relaxation, or you check out our own Guided Relaxation-Visual Imagery Audio App – Relax. Relax is a powerful guided relaxation audio app that stimulates a natural desire to take positive action at both a conscious and subconscious levels. It includes guided meditation, relaxation, and positive visualization.
What makes our Audio App unique is that the relaxation exercises are combined with a visual image of you doing what you’re frightened of. It teaches you how to stay calm. This acts as a powerful reinforcement and complement to addressing your self-defeating thoughts through actions. Now, you’re viewing, speaking, and acting as a strong and confident individual. Fear fades and confidence grows.
Step 8: Repeat
Practice the above 7 steps until the anxiety has left completely. Ideally, practice daily. Deliberately practicing new behavior will ensure that you get better at overcoming your fear or anxiety.
Anxiety comes in many different forms – emotional and physical – and there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to managing it. You may have to experiment and try out different approaches before you figure out what works for you. Anything you can do to alleviate tension inside of you will help. Above all, recognize yourself as a strong, confident person. Anxiety can be very to deal with! It takes great strength and bravery to cope with it on a daily basis. Give yourself credit for pulling through tough times.
If you want more hands-on teaching on how to control your emotions, please visit The 8-Hour Therapist and sign up for our online self-help counselling program which teaches you exactly how to control and manage your emotions (including Anxiety specifically in Module 6). If you need more customized, one-to-one therapy support please visit us at NKS Therapy to book a FREE 15-minute consultation for our virtual counselling psychotherapy services with a therapist on our team.
Stay healthy, happy and well!