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13 ways how I survived anxiety

My mother was always anxious. There wasn't a day in my childhood when she didn't have some worry that would ruin her mood for the day. My father, on the other hand, ran a successful business and never seemed to worry about anything at all. I should have realized then that one day I would grow up to be just like her--full of anxiety about everything.

I've learned over time, however, that there are ways to manage anxiety that might help you cope with it as well. These are some of the things I've found to work for me. I'm sure not all of them will work for you, but hopefully at least one or two will help you as they have helped me.

1. Realize that anxiety is nothing more than an emotion and give it a name. This is the first step in learning how to manage anxiety because once you know that it's only an emotion, your fears become easier to deal with. As soon as you say out loud, "I feel anxious," for instance, it seems less ominous because now it's just one more word in a dictionary full of words--no scarier than any other word there.

2. Keep a journal to record the details of your day. Whenever you can, write down whatever came into your mind when you felt anxious. For instance, I discovered that there's no need to try to figure out why I felt anxious; I just wrote "anxious" in the space for that emotion and left it at that. Maybe anxiety is an internal feeling of uneasiness or even fear; it doesn't matter why you feel it so long as you can recognize it.

3. Find something fun to do on a regular basis. This is especially important if you're prone to anxiety attacks of all sorts. I started going to a weekly yoga class that was taught by one of my friends. This was out of the ordinary for me and I didn't know what to expect from it, which is just how I like it; learning new things keeps me from getting bored. I've even learned how to do some moves that are especially good for calming your nerves.

4. If you feel anxious about something specific, ask yourself why you're so afraid of it. There's a good chance that your anxiety is based on a fear of the unknown; the more familiar you become with whatever it is you're worried about, the less fearful and anxious you will be about it. For instance, if I was anxious about leaving my home in the morning, I would ask myself why. Often, the answer was because it was the first time some event (a new job or moving) that I hadn't already experienced before. If so, then I could anticipate with knowledge of what to expect and therefore not be afraid of it.

5. The thought that others might see you as anxious because of how you look is your own problem. I learned from experience that it's not the situation itself that worries you; it's how you look in the midst of it. You're worth more than a paranoid thought about how others might see you. Even if they say something perceived as negative, I learned to ignore their words and think about what they might have meant by them. They can't hurt you unless they have the power to sentence you to death, and if they do, then what difference would one ill-worded comment make at that point?

6. Don't dwell on negative thoughts. These thoughts often lead to more anxiety because they cause you to dwell more on your fears--fears that begin to seem real and impending. In other words, your worries start to seem like facts instead of just thoughts.

7. Learn from experience. If you know what led to your anxiety or panic attack, then you can avoid repeating a self-fulfilling prophecy when the time comes for it to happen again. I learned in my teenage years that reacting to my fears by running away gave them control over me, which leads not just to more anxiety but also more guilt on top of it. So I learned how to face my fears instead, by taking action and doing what I had planned--even if that meant facing anxious feelings while doing so. In that sense, my fears were put to rest because I was doing what was right even though it made me anxious.

8. If you can't do anything about what's making you anxious, then keep yourself busy doing something else. I learned that just sitting around worrying about such a thing makes it more likely that you'll end up acting on your fears by doing something you later regret. So when I felt anxious about leaving the house in the morning, I did something else to occupy my mind and divert myself from it--like reading a book or watching television while eating breakfast. If getting out of bed to begin the day is difficult for you, then perhaps having a task to keep your hands occupied will help as well.

9. If you're feeling anxious as a result of something that happened in the past, try to accept it instead of dwelling on how it makes you feel now. I learned that whatever happened, happened; there's no point in dwelling on it because doing so will only make you suffer more. Dwelling on such things only makes them all the more real for you, which leads to all sorts of unpleasant feelings that do nothing but upset you. Instead, accept what has already happened and move forward.

10. Remember that anxiety doesn't have to have a negative effect on your life if you know how to deal with it properly. I learned that you can use it to make changes in your life that you might otherwise not consider if you didn't have anxiety. For example, you can be more cautious about things and you can be more empathetic towards others' feelings.

11. Choosing more "considerate" people in your life will make your life easier. I learned that there are a lot of very nice people out there in the world, but it's hard to meet them because they're not seeking each other out as they go about their daily lives. The same can be said for employment and certainly romantic relationships. When I finally found friends and a boyfriend that I could count on, I found them easier to deal with because they were more considerate of me and my feelings than many others had been.

12. If you know you're prone to anxiety attacks, then anticipate them to make sure you're prepared for them before they happen. For example, if I know that I need to speak in front of people and that this makes me anxious, then I can prepare for it by practicing until I feel comfortable doing so again.

13. Even if therapy sounds like an "unnecessary" expense at first, it's not. It's an investment in yourself. You don't know what kind of life you will have tomorrow, so try to build a foundation now. If your therapist helps you find a better way to deal with your fears, then consider it an investment in yourself because it's likely that those changes will pay dividends later on.

I hope this blog helps someone who's suffering from anxiety as much as I've suffered from it. If so, please leave me a comment or two and let me know how this site has helped you.

Written by Harshita Sevaldasani

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