A lot of people suffer from anxiety these days (maybe they always did). But what exactly is anxiety? It’s about wanting to control something that’s out of our control. Like being unable to leave the house because the thought of it gets your heart racing and makes you short of breath – like you’re about to die (even though you know you’re not).
Or it could be a state of heightened nerves awaiting an exam result – one you’ve just got to get a good grade in. Or getting tense in busy traffic because you’ve simply got to get somewhere on time.
Maybe it’s feeling anxious about your kids when they go out. Or panic about doing a presentation at work.
All these scenarios are about lack of control.
Thing is, if you can’t control a given situation, you need to either accept it or do something about it (if that’s possible). And if it can’t be controlled ask yourself what is in control of the situation: You or the anxiety.
If it’s the anxiety, then you need to find ways to chill out. Like asking yourself what’s the worst that can happen?
If you fail the exam, what alternatives are there? Like other paths in life? Would it be so bad if you didn’t make the grade?
As to anxieties like finding it difficult, or impossible, to leave the house, well again, ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen? Sure you could be killed. But it’s unlikely. And anyway you could be killed in your house. Equally unlikely.
You could pass out with fear when you leave the house. But if you did people will probably help you. And this kind of fear is very likely down to embarrassing yourself in public rather than actual fear of leaving the house. Or it might be partly down to not wanting to be a bother to people.
It’s the same with social anxiety. It’s no so much fear of people and crowds, but making a fool of yourself in public. Thing is, most people won’t even notice if you do – they’ll be more focused on themselves than on you. And if you do make a fool of yourself, well, one person’s idea of being foolish is not necessarily the same as another person’s.
And when it comes to that work presentation going belly-up – well, would anyone really care that much? You’ll likely have got your point across, anyway, even if the delivery wasn’t top notch. Mostly likely people will give you tips on improving your presentations. And if you were able to relax, possibly an informal approach would prove a bit hit. Who knows?
In the end, dealing with anxiety is about breaking things down. Getting control of what you can control, rather than letting anxiety control you. Yes, it demands a level of willpower and objectivity, and not letting the emotion of fear get the better of you. But the more you do it, the better you get at it. You’ll be developing a positive habit of mind that will keep anxiety at bay.
Author and journalist