Even though we suffer from anxiety, life still goes on. We need to learn how to control anxiety so that we may continue to live and prosper.
Most people that suffer from anxiety live normal lives. They have families, they work, they love, they raise children, they take vacations and they look just like everyone else.
The difference is, we may become anxious or suffer from a panic attack at any moment. These attacks can range from complete debilitation to mild discomfort.
Some people are able to hide their attacks and no one around them is the wiser. For an unfortunate few, the anxiety is so overwhelming that it controls their lives and their lifestyle and their behavior is completely based around their anxiety.
Whichever category you may fall under, just know it is possible to function even while you are experiencing anxiety.
In my previous post about how to manage your anxiety, you read about the fear scale. If you are an 8 or above, it becomes very difficult to focus on anything but your anxiety.
For people in that category, it is very important that you work on different methods to bring your fear level down to a 7 or below, before trying some of the tactics in this post.
You can manage that by medication, breathing techniques, exercise or meditation. The point is, be pro-active and work towards lowering your anxiety fear level.
Just to recap from a previous post, keep a journal in which you record daily what you feel your level of anxiety to be. 0 = No fear at all, completely relaxed, 10 = The worst fear you have ever had, complete panic.
4 through 8 represent a discomfort zone of heightened anxiety levels that most people can still function through.
If you find yourself in that zone, it is important to work voluntarily in that zone in order to reclaim your life from the anxiety monster. In other words, it is important to CONTROL ANXIETY, rather than anxiety control you.
Remember also, you are changing the faulty wiring in your brain by not responding to the false alarm that is being sounded. You are training the way your body responds (the physical symptoms) to your anxiety.
At first, this may seem very difficult, but overtime, you will gradually notice the less credit you give your anxiety, the less effect it will have on you.
A big part of anxiety is our reaction to it.
When anxiety triggers in our bodies, we experience physical symptoms. The second bite the anxiety monster takes is our fear of those symptoms.
The less fear we have of those symptoms, the less control anxiety has over us. Only active practice will desensitize our nervous system.
Functioning with high levels of anxiety
Most people that experience a high level of anxiety (8 or above) find it very difficult to focus on anything but their anxiety. This makes it very difficult to use any of your calming techniques.
That is why it is so important to practice, practice, practice! The time to practice is not when you are in critical mode, but when you are experiencing mild to moderate anxiety.
It is during those times that you control anxiety with your breathing techniques or meditation or whatever it is you have found that works for you.
Imagine playing a game of golf with your friend Jane.
The game has come down to the last putt on the last hole of the course. Both you and Jane golf on a regular basis. Over the last few months, Jane has been practicing on her swing while teeing off.
You on the other hand have been practicing over the last few months on your putting. You are both about ten feet away from the hole. Who has the better chance of sinking the ball?
That’s right! You do! It really is that simple, if you practice something, when it comes time to use it, you will be more able to do it than someone who has not practice it. Plain and simple!
If all else fails, remember this, this is unpleasant, but not dangerous. Let me say that again. If you are experiencing anxiety over a level of 8, it is unpleasant, BUT NOT DANGEROUS! You must remember that above all else.
The feelings at this high level of anxiety are so overwhelming that it is very easy to respond to the false alarm your body is sounding by concluding that real danger is at hand.
Look around you, is anyone else panicking? No? Then nothing is wrong, you are experiencing a false alarm, a few chemicals out of place in your sensitized brain.
Always leave yourself an out
I challenge you to face the anxiety monster head on. But, you may not win the war in one battle.
It may take several times, even several months before you feel enough improvement to realize you are winning the war. That is why, before the battle even starts, have an out.
Running from the anxiety monster never works. You may feel better, but the monster knows it beat you. And you are training yourself to flee every time you face the monster.
An out is different. An out is simply a contract that you have made with yourself beforehand. You have agreed to take a break and to return to the situation in a more manageable way in the near future.
If you do take an out, make sure and get back in the fight as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it may be to return.
Use imagery to fight the anxiety monster on your terms. Visualize or imagine the place or situation that causes you anxiety.
When the monster shows up, begin working on lowering your anxiety. Keep your eyes closed when you use imagery. Your out is opening your eyes.
This exercise is under your complete control. Fight the monster and feel your anxiety levels lowering. If it becomes too much, open your eyes. You are safe, you are in control.
Know before you begin an exercise like this, what exactly you are going to do to fight the monster, know what your out is and know that you are in complete control.
Again, this takes practice. Stick with it and I guarantee you will see results.
Once you can control the monster using imagery, it is time to step it up a notch and search out the monster on his home turf.
If for example you are having trouble driving, imagine driving while in a comfortable setting at home and deal with your anxiety on your terms.
Once you have complete control over your anxiety while at home, then it’s time to take it a step further. Simply sit in your car in your driveway and begin the exercise all over.
Sit back relax, feel the anxiety as it comes on, once your anxiety level is 4 or over, start decreasing it.
Once you have mastered this sitting in your car, go for a short slow drive in your neighborhood or find an empty parking lot and repeat the process.
From there, find a place you can go a little faster and so on until you are driving on the freeway and control anxiety completely.