Those of us who have a tendency to worry know what it’s like to feel constantly in fight or flight battle mode.
It can leave us feeling exhausted.
Here are 5 tips to help keep a check on your anxiety and manage it in ways that have been found to work:
1. Understand the link between your physical sensations and your body
It’s a good idea to identify anxiety for what it is: a physiological reaction to a possible (but not immediate) negative outcome or threat.
Basically, our body reacts as if it’s being threatened. But it’s a threat that’s in our mind, not right in front of us.
Learn to look for signs that your anxiety is getting the better of you at the body level:
- Involuntary muscle tensing
- A racing mind
- More frequent trips to the toilet
- Rapid and shallow breathing
- A racing heart
These sensations are clues, at the body level, that you are feeling anxious and worried about something. Noticing these physical sensations can help you move forward by acknowledging the physical symptoms and putting in place management strategies.
2. Identify your feelings
Most of us are better at identifying what we think rather than what we feel.
Working on your emotional intelligence is key. It can be as simple as asking yourself, on a semi-regular basis, ‘’what am I feeling at this moment? What is the emotion that I am experiencing right now?
Anxious people tend to over-predict negative outcomes to events, which in turn causes them to feel worried, concerned, nervous, fearful, uneasy, etc. Recognising this, and naming the emotions, is an important step in self-awareness.
3. Know you are not defined by your feelings
Whilst emotional intelligence is good, Scripture makes it clear that we are not defined by our emotions, but by who God says we are in Him.
So you are not your anxiety, or your anxious feelings.
You are a son and a daughter of God, loved unconditionally by Him, with and without your tendency to worry.
4. Learn to tolerate the discomfort of worry
Distress tolerance is a person’s ability to manage actual or perceived emotional distress. People who have low distress tolerance tend to become overwhelmed by stressful situations and may sometimes turn to unhealthy or even destructive ways of coping with these difficult emotions.
Whether the anxiety is large or small, your ability to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings can play a role in how you manage. Some ideas to do this well include:
- Distraction (what can you do to take your mind off your worry?)
- Improving the moment (strategies to help make the anxiety situation more tolerable – for example, visualizing a relaxing scene, looking for the silver lining, or taking a break)
- Radical acceptance (Rather than focusing on things that cannot be changed or that are out of your control, radical acceptance involves just accepting things as they are, letting go and letting God – Proverbs 16:3)
5. Let go and let God
There are things we have control over, and things we have not control over. The bible makes it clear that it is a wise thing to let go and let God deal with those things we have no control over – rather than occupy ourselves with carrying what isn’t ours to carry.
One of my favourite verses in Scripture is found in the book of Exodus: ‘’the Lord will fight for you – you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14). It goes against my tendency to want to control, manage or influence outcomes – and in this way it can be difficult to do – and yet there is so much freedom in knowing He can fight on my behalf when I can’t. Like the lilies in the field and the birds in the air, I need only to trust in His care and provision (Luke 12:27).