One of the biggest struggles in every anxious person’s life is the inability to stop worrying. You may feel ok when things are going well, but even then your mind seems to be grasping on something to worry about. “Will I get there on time? What if this is just a stillness before a storm? Am I going to get sick?” – these are just a few examples of how we tend to overthink the future almost every minute of our life. A feeling of impending doom is always somewhere in the peripheral view.
Not to mention the times of crisis, or bad situations that seem to literally absorb you in a continuous circle of fear or even panic attacks. You dread them and try to avoid them because they make you feel terrible… Yet life happens and sometimes you just can’t do anything to prevent hard situations – they just happen.
It’s very unrealistic to expect that your life should be perfect, and free of struggle. Everyone struggles – some get hard things to handle more often than others, but ultimately – the life itself is tainted with some suffering for us all.
I used to be incredibly anxious all the time. Every negative situation, every conflict or threat resulted in weeks of intense panic and unstoppable overthinking – what if *something* happens? I couldn’t rest until the problem was resolved, and knowing that some problems take weeks or even months to resolve, you can imagine how drained and exhausted I felt every single time.
However, I found my peace. It took some time, and quite a few transformative books to find simple secrets that helped me shift into another way of living – the one without fear.
If you suffer from constant or situational anxiety, hear me out. I want to share those secrets with you and hopefully, they will give you that oh so needed relief.
1. Stop Living In Your Head
Here’s the thing – the past and future are just an illusion. Think about it well – all you will ever have is the present moment. Your life is happening only in the “now” – not in the past and not in the future, it’s always this moment.
If you’re constantly living in your head, ruminating on bad things that happened to you or imagining negative scenarios in your head, you are just feeding your negative mind – and keep yourself restless.
You need to get back to the present – as much as you can. You can use mindfulness for that, and the simplest form of it is to just become aware of the present. Watch your surroundings. Tune into your senses – what can you smell, see, taste, or hear? Focus on your breath. Feel your body. Bring your attention to what you are doing at the moment, even if it’s just washing the dishes.
Bringing your attention back to the present helps to shift your focus from the illusions of past or future and get you back to the now, where life is actually happening. Many times you will find that you are actually OK and safe in the present moment, it’s only the thoughts that are keeping you in fear or emotional pain.
If the present moment is unpleasant or unacceptable, try to do one of these things:
- Do something to improve it;
- Remove yourself from the situation;
- Accept that it’s unpleasant. Now, it doesn’t mean to accept the bad situation. You don’t have to say “oh, whatever, I don’t care anymore”. No, you need to only accept the fact that the present moment is uncomfortable – and that’s FINE. You can be with that feeling until it passes, and it passes much faster if you stop fighting and resisting it. In such moments I like to tell myself – whatever it is, it is OK – just let me feel it.
2. Stop Fighting Negative Thoughts
The more you fight, the more they persist. If you can’t stop thinking about negative scenarios, remind yourself that you are not your thoughts. Thoughts are just something to think about, but they are not you.
Try to disidentify yourself from your thoughts – as if you were watching, or observing them. As if you are the mountain and thoughts are just clouds passing by.
Do not try to suppress them – notice them, be curious about them, but don’t judge them. Just let them be there around you. Sooner or later they will pass.
To make this waiting easier, try journaling as a way to observe your thoughts.
3. Stop Fighting Negative Feelings
This may sound scary, but instead of trying to stop negative feelings or emotions, learn to accept them. Fear, sadness, anger, disappointment – anything negative is just a feeling that arises from those thoughts you’re trying to fight.
The same way as with the thoughts become a watcher of your emotions. They are NOT you. They are just something to feel, your body’s natural reaction to negative thoughts.
Sure, they are unpleasant. Deep fear is one of the most unpleasant feelings to feel. But it’s also your body’s natural way of protecting you from the possible danger. The only thing is – in these days, we’re not facing tigers or animals that could literally harm us. Instead, we’re facing our talented imagination – “what if *this* or *that* happens?”.
But you can never cope with the past, nor can you cope with the future because it’s not real yet. You can’t try to solve every possible scenario in advance because there are endless numbers of them. It’s just impossible.
The one thing you can cope with is the present moment. You can find a required solution, take needed action and stand through if needed. Focus on the one thing you can do now.
Here’s how all of this looks in real life:
You find yourself deeply worried about a situation that may result in you losing your job. Negative scenarios are just swirling in your head, you can’t think clearly, you feel fear and anxiety rising.
Stop for a second and get back to presence. Look around, tune into your senses (touch something, smell something and such), focus on your breath. Don’t fight those thoughts and accept that this moment feels unpleasant. Be ok with it.
Then try to see those thoughts as not being a part of you, but rather just clouds floating around. The same thing with emotions – watch them, observe them. Do not be judgemental about them or yourself.
Spend some time accepting the fact that you are in this situation. Again – not the situation itself but just the fact that it “sucks now”. Do not try to resist it with thoughts like “I wish it never happened” or “I just want it to be over right this second”. The more you fight it, the worse you will feel and you can’t turn back time anyway – so why suffer? It already happened.
Once you’ll stop resisting what is, disidentify yourself from the thoughts and emotions, bring your attention to the present – you will feel that the fear subsides and your mind starts to clear.
And when you feel calm, you can then think about what you can do this moment to make things better. Evaluate your options and make decisions.
Funny thing is, once you start thinking from your rational mind (not the reactive one), the solution often comes up naturally. And if there’s absolutely nothing you can do (this is rare though), accept that fact too. Acceptance takes fear and denial and transforms it into peace and stillness.