If you experience overwhelming anxiety and you think you have lost the fight, don’t make the mistake of believing medication is the only remaining option. Heightened anxiety may cloud your perspective and prevent you seeing other ways to break free.
If you are considering taking anxiety medication because your fears are out of control and everything you tried so far was unsuccessful, ask yourself if your anxiety is doing all the talking. Don’t decide that this is just the way your life is and that you will forever struggle with it. Think about whether you actually had the right goals for addressing the difficulties you experienced.
If we make mistakes in the very beginning of our therapy, we can go in the wrong direction, trying really hard and working tirelessly on the wrong goals.
What are your goals for therapy? Are you on the right track? Check the table below to learn more about different goals for anxiety management. For example, some common goals really aren?t that helpful to our long-term management of anxiety.
Not helpful goals
|Making it go away||Understanding anxiety|
|Eliminating anxiety||Managing anxiety|
|Avoiding anxiety-provoking situations||Preparing for anxiety|
|Self-criticism||Practicing skills and strategies|
Consider the better options for treating heightened anxiety:
- Understanding your anxiety – When someone experiences overwhelming anxiety or has been just diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder), the first step is often to understand how the individual experiences this condition. Your treating psychologist might ask questions about: the onset, frequency and severity of your anxiety or anxiety attacks; what are your triggers; when are you more likely to feel anxious; and when do you feel that you manage anxiety well. Many people experience anxiety symptoms (excessive worry, anxious moods, restlessness, avoidance and so on), but there can be differences in our triggers or our circumstances that make us more vulnerable. For example, if someone suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder even an invitation to a party can be a trigger.
It may be helpful to question yourself on several key issues:
- Physical health: How is my physical health? Do I get enough exercise? What about the quality of my nutrition? Do I sleep enough?
- Stress management: Am I stressed out? How do I manage my stress at the moment? Am I going through a really difficult time in my life?
- Unhelpful thinking patterns: Am I catastrophising?
- Avoidance: Am I avoiding anxiety-provoking situations?
- Managing anxiety instead of eliminating it – If we never feel anxious we run the risk of premature death, as we will not be worried about crossing the road carefully, handling dangerous animals or coming into contact with electricity. Anxiety is essential for our survival because the feeling helps us to be cautious. The problem really arises if, after a prolonged period of time, anxiousness turns into a debilitating condition or into depression. It is therefore really important to monitor how you feel and whether the anxiety is overwhelming and prevents you doing what you enjoy, or puts limits on what you do.
- Preparing for anxiety-provoking situations – You cannot get rid of anxiety by avoiding anxiety-provoking situations all the time. It is important to develop, with your psychologist, a plan to manage your anxiety better. Approaching situations already prepared will help reduce your stress levels. You might benefit from writing coping statements to support you on your journey to recovery.
- Stop criticising yourself – Support yourself, instead of undermining yourself. Use coping statements as a form of support. Some of the helpful statements that can help you to deal with anxious situations include:
“This is an opportunity for me to learn to manage my anxiety better. Facing my fears is the best way to overcome them. Today I will take the first step to face my fears, to help me in reaching my goal of overcoming fear of XYZ. By taking this step today I am getting closer to managing my anxiety and getting rid of this fear. It will feel uncomfortable but I can do it. Every time I confront my fears, it will feel less and less uncomfortable”.
Remember that after you make your first step to confront your fears and acknowledge that you are taking a risk, you will start overcoming the fears and find ways to manage situations more effectively.
Acknowledge your fears by saying something like: “I felt anxious but I did it, I am proud of myself for taking active steps to deal with this problem. Every time I confront it, the problem will get smaller. I am taking my life back. I am learning how to effectively manage anxiety and the more I practise the easier it gets. This emotion will pass and I will feel good again. I can handle it” Or simply come up with your own statements that encourage you to work on addressing your difficulties with anxiety.
Once you are clear about your goals, start learning more about the anxiety in your life – what triggers it and what makes it difficult to manage. Check your physical health and even see your doctor to make sure that there are no underlying physical problems. Develop your own coping statement to encourage further steps towards managing your anxiety effectively. In our next article on the Predict. Prepare. Practise approach you can learn further strategies for managing your heightened anxiety. Give yourself an opportunity to succeed from the beginning, start learning helpful approaches and strategies to manage your anxiety effectively.
Posted September 6, 2014 by Yuliya Richard.
License: Creative Commons Copyright
All rights reserved by David Goehring