Tips for overcoming anxiety

Posted by Frank Gillespie MA

Is it better safe than anxious? Anxiety is a free-floating fear without any subject. Anxiety seems an unbeatable obstacle in everyday life sometimes, but luckily there are techniques which can help you better understand and overcome your issues.

What causes anxiety?

We immediately link thoughts in our head to certain events that happen to us. Then we link feelings to these thoughts and then we react to the feelings with some kind of a volitional impulse. This process happens so fast that sometimes our thoughts and feelings remain unconscious.

Usually, we are not aware of false, irrational thoughts that may cause anxiety. Everything happens quickly and we only feel that something is not okay, so have to do something to relieve the negative feelings immediately: for example we eat a little chocolate, drink a beer, smoke a cigarette, or we yell at our children.

In case of anxiety and panic disorder we need to catch the unconscious, unrealistic thoughts and change them to conscious, realistic ones. If successful, angst and panic will stop.

Anxiety test

The following test will show you how prone you are to anxiety. Count how much of the following statements is typical of you? (Note: This test does not itself indicate a diagnosis. To determine any potential diagnosis, discuss your results with your therapist or a mental health professional.)

  • I am creative with a good -sometimes too vivid- imagination
  • Sometimes I cannot get rid of a negative thought for days
  • I like to be sympathetic and please everybody
  • I have high expectations of myself
  • I have to be perfect and what I do too
  • I consider reliability very important
  • Sometimes I control myself too much and don’t say anything when I should
  • Sometimes I get angry later, but feel nothing in a certain situation
  • I tend to neglect my physical needs

Evaluation: The more statement is typical of you the more powerful tendency you have to anxiety. However, all these characteristics have a positive side too. For example, you can use your imagination to create symptoms but also to quench anxiety with a mental image.

Anxiety quiz: Why are you anxious?

The following quiz will help you reveal the background and underlying causes of your anxiety. Simply answer the following questions with yes or no. (Note: This test does not itself indicate a diagnosis but feel free to discuss your results with your therapist or a mental health professional.)

  • Was there any alcoholic person in your family?
  • Can you recall any incident of mistreatment from your childhood? (physical, mental or sexual abuse, neglect)
  • Did your parents struggle from anxiety too?
  • Have you been criticized a lot by your parents?
  • Were the rules in your home very strict or rigid?
  • Did your family have any incontestable wisdom? (e. g. one must suffer to be beautiful etc.)
  • Was appearance important in your family, to show the outside world how good this family, child etc. was?
  • Were your parents overprotective?
  • Was it rare or even taboo to talk about feelings in your family?
  • Can you recall any memories from your childhood where adults were whispering about something and said to you: `it's not of your business`?
  • Did your parent's appreciation depend on your performance in school?
  • Were you afraid of losing your parents?
  • Do you have any memory where you were left alone and you were very scared?
  • Did you have any adult responsibilities that now you know you shouldn’t have been trusted with as a child (for example to take care of your siblings or parents, housework, take part in your parents marital issues, reconcile them etc.)
  • Did your family have any closely guarded secrets (origin, illness, alcohol problems, infidelity etc.)?

Evaluation: The more yes answers you have the more prone you are to anxiety.

How to get rid of anxiety: 14 methods to reduce anxiety symptoms

Anxiety is a present symptom of a haunting, unconscious memory from the past. There are two steps in overcoming anxiety: first the symptoms need to be reduced so that you can live life to the full again. When strengthened, the causes of anxiety need to be revealed and processed. Anti-anxiety techniques are effective only if you don’t stop at reducing the symptoms but you also solve the underlying causes. The following techniques can help you release anxiety and worry:

  • 1. Relaxation (for example autogenic training, or progressive training)
  • 2. Breathing exercises
  • 3. Self-encouragement, self-reinforcement
  • 4. Distractions (concentration on something else, conversation with friends, work, play etc.)
  • 5. Lifestyle changes (less caffeine, more sleep, stress-reducing foods, sport, daily relaxation)
  • 6. Block technique (record distorted thoughts, then argue with yourself, form positive thoughts and repeat them regularly)
  • 7. The Law of Good Day (deciphering the background of your anxiety is the most effective when you are not worried)
  • 8. Visual Imagery (imagine pictures that relief your anxiety for example: a calm place, people you love etc. Or imagine an impenetrable wall slamming down between you and your negative thoughts, blocking them from your mind)
  • 9. The `So what?` method (think about your scariest thought and ask yourself `So, what? What will happen?` Keep asking yourself until you find a reassuring answer. By separating fact from fiction, you can successfully tamp down over-thinking and worry. You don’t have to keep feeding your insecurities. Instead, begin to challenge them with fact. )
  • 10. Is this a fear from the past or from the present?
  • 11. Focus Point Technique (repeat a soothing word as a mantra)
  • 12. Work out, big ballistic movements (e. g. arm circle exercises)
  • 13. Card Method (write down all these methods on a card or a peace of paper and read them when anxious)
  • 14. If nothing works, visit a psychologist

These techniques must be implemented regularly, but with practice, they will become your new habits. Get rid of anxiety by building these methods into your everyday life. However there are some obstacles you should know about so that you can prepare for facing them in advance.

    • 1. Change is inconvenient. You will feel better in the long run, but in short-term new things (such as new anti-anxiety techniques) may cause new anxieties. But this is only temporary.
    • 2. When trying new things, the unknown consequences may discourage you if you are not truly determined to solve your problems.
    • 3. Experimenting to find the most suitable and effective technique for you requires patience and persistence.
    • 4. Overcoming anxiety requires hard work.
    • 5. Secondary benefits of clinging to the problem will be lost.
    • 6. Anxiety (and irrational thinking) may have become your everyday habit over the years, therefore you have to find new ways to overwrite these habits.

Make an experiment! Test your current level of anxiety, then do the above anti-anxiety exercises for 4 weeks. After that return here and test how you feel again!

Frank Gillespie MA

Frank Gillespie has a Master's Degree in Counseling from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. He is a nationally Certified Counselor (NCC). He has provided therapy for over 23 years. During his career, he has helped more than 10,000 people move past their obstacles towards reaching their potential and fulfillment in their lives. He practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a warm and nurturing approach. In addition to being a therapist, Frank has been an adjunct college professor teaching social work, a clinical consultant, a clinical director, and a seminar speaker. Frank has recently retired from his full time practice to focus on a part time online practice. He is married. He enjoys listening to music, watching sports, power walking, swimming, reading and writing.


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