Anxiety is a common human experience. It’s a form of fear. Fear alerts us to danger and helps us do what we need to do to be safe. If we’re anxious about how we’ll pay or bills or pass an exam, the energy of the anxiety can be channelled into action. Once the bills are paid or the exam is finished, we can relax. Anxiety becomes a problem, though, when it happens for no obvious reason. We feel afraid, but don’t know what to do to restore a sense of safety.
When we feel anxious without a clear reason, all we can do is worry. The anxiety is telling us that something is wrong and we’d better do something about it, but we don’t know what’s wrong or what to do. Our minds get caught up in worry, and the worry makes the anxiety worse. Before we know it, we’re in the “anxiety-worry spiral”. Anxiety and worry feed each other. To complicate things even more, we become anxious about being anxious. We try to push the anxiety out or run away from it, and that makes it even worse.
“Don’t worry, be happy” is great advice, but it’s easier said than done. So is the advice to “take a deep breath”. When anxiety comes up, we get caught up in worry so quickly that we don’t even remember to take a deep breath. And it’s also difficult to do because the feeling that there is something wrong is so very real. How can we take a nice, relaxed breath when we feel we’re threatened? Breaking the Anxiety-Worry Spiral isn’t all that easy.
What we’ve found is that although you can get temporary relief from anxiety in a number of ways, it takes time to make deep and lasting change. You have to learn to relax and to change some long-standing habits. Relaxation and meditation techniques may be enough for some people. Others may get the best relief through therapy or counseling. Some find they need to use a variety of different strategies. What’s important is that you find something that makes sense for you and use it consistently over time.
All of the following can bring relief from anxiety:
- the habit of breathing deeply when anxious — this brings relief by counteracting the shallow, constricted breathing that comes with anxiety
- relaxing into anxiety rather than trying to push it out and run away from it — “what you resist persists” — without resistance anxiety can naturally resolve
- learning to distance yourself from the anxiety — being able to step back and have perspective on the experience of anxiety helps decrease it
- regular meditation and/or relaxation exercises — these help you learn to relax easily
- letting go of worry — you need to develop a conviction that the worry is baseless and a habit of letting it go
- learning to reassure yourself when anxious — finding things you can tell yourself and other ways to reassure yourself that “everything is alright”
Our At Ease Program works with all of the strategies mentioned above. Special Guided Breathing Meditations, Exercises and Journaling work together to break the Anxiety-Worry Spiral and bring relief from anxiety. Use this special online program for deep and lasting change. (read more)