Fighting Anxiety: 5 Guidelines To Reduce Tension

Some tips to mitigate anxiety and its associated problems.

Anxiety is a vicious cycle that is difficult to get out of. We are facing a psychological disorder that is a true pandemic in today’s society. 

But what exactly is anxiety, what symptoms does it present and how can we get out of this situation?

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a mental state of anticipation, in which we experience nervousness and restlessness. It is an unpleasant sensation that puts us in tension. Anxiety is a normal response of our body, which interprets that we must be alert to an event close to time, but some people are kidnapped by anxiety and report a series of bothersome symptoms and signs (psychological and somatic).

The feeling of anxiety is particularly difficult to describe, it cannot always be related to a specific origin (an exam, medical results, etc.) and it feeds on the consequences it generates (such as postponement of pending tasks) . 

Fighting anxiety and its causes

Therefore, it is difficult to face it, although not impossible. These five guidelines to combat anxiety can help you mitigate its adverse effects and better understand their nature:

1. Learn to be your own boss

Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling that most of us want to avoid. The problem is compounded when we decide to compensate for the state of anxiety by resorting to stereotyped and repetitive forms of behavior. These are behaviors that usually start unconsciously, are partly automatic, and can be more or less simple (stretching or pulling one’s hair, tapping one leg, etc.) or somewhat more complex (taking trips to the fridge and eating something ).

In addition to the adverse effect that these behaviors can have on our body, such as obesity or hair loss, letting ourselves be carried away by them has the disadvantage that it makes us enter a vicious circle : as they are so associated with periods of stress, they act as a reminder that that feeling you want to avoid is there. Therefore, to combat anxiety it is convenient to recognize these stereotypical patterns of behavior and stop them.

2. Fighting anxiety is fighting the “I’ll do it tomorrow”

The anxiety periods may have been triggered by day-to-day elements that are related to work, obligations, and decision-making. For this reason, fighting anxiety also means recognizing the situations in which this feeling can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the negative mood itself invites you to throw in the towel ahead of time.

Anxiety is one of the forms that fear can take of starting to do something that may go wrong and that, as a consequence, is put off time after time in a process called  procrastination. Paradoxically, these postponements are what make anxiety have a reason for being, since thanks to them the obligation that generates stress is still there.

3. Divide your day to day into small pieces

Surely you have realized that, from the moment you start a task that you are lazy to do, it becomes more and more enjoyable and manageable. Something similar happens with anxiety: to keep your attention away from what causes tension, starting an activity is much more effective than thinking about starting that same activity.

And it is that the fact of being aware that anxiety acts as a burden when doing things we want to do is in itself an anxious source. If you want to make sure that what needs to be done is done without anxiety acting as a brake, there is nothing like breaking more complex tasks into short sequences. If you have to write a report, for example, the first task can be as simple as turning on the computer and opening a text editor. The following sequence should start from there and also be very short (write the first paragraph, etc.).

4. Take your time

The flip side of combating procrastination is making sure that we make good use of the time we spend resting, since spending all day doing things to try to distract our attention can be exhausting. If we do not know the source of the anxiety, this coming and going of distracting activities can act as a reminder that we are anxious, and if the source of the anxiety is in the pending obligations, it can generate a feeling of guilt. That is why it pays to be methodical with rest periods and make them allow a better orientation towards the objectives.

In addition, the breath control exercises that are included in activities such as meditation,  Mindfulness or tai chi are  very useful to reduce the levels of stress that start all the anxiety machinery. Taking a while to relax even if the body asks otherwise and making these times do not last longer than necessary to adjust hormone levels well are two basic guidelines to combat anxiety.

5. Don’t insist on making anxiety go away

From a biological point of view, anxiety is the fruit of complex neuroendocrine dynamics that no one would want to have to deal with without the help of the subconscious processes that regulate them. Therefore, it should be clear that you can only combat anxiety indirectly. As much as you try to ignore the feelings of tension and fear, they will not go away just because our conscious mind asks it nicely.

In fact, trying to suppress these biological processes in your mind is nothing more than a way of recognizing that this problem is there. For anxiety to stop being a problem, you have to fight its symptoms by creating new  patterns of behavior. The solution is not in the privacy of the mind itself, but in the relationships between the body and the environment.

Bibliographic references:

  • Mayor Lapiedra, MT (1991). Behavioral disorders in childhood and their relationships with experiences of anxiety and depression. Zaragoza: University. 
  • Maple, EA (2000). The man of the XXI century: anxiety or fullness? Buenos Aires: Editorial Argenta Sarlep. 
  • Brinkerhoff, S. (2004). Drug therapy and anxiety disorders. Philadelphia: Mason Crest Publishers. 
  • Cano-Vindel, A., & Fern├índez-Castro, J. (1999). Cognitive Processes and Emotion. (Monograph on ‘Anxiety and Stress’). Murcia: Compobell. 
  • Friedman, S. (1997). Cultural issues in the treatment of anxiety. New York: Guilford Press. 
  • Kasper, S., Boer, JA d., & Sitsen, JMA (2003). Handbook of depression and anxiety (2nd ed.). New York: M. Dekker. 
  • Root, BA (2000). Understanding panic and other anxiety disorders. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 
  • Veeraraghavan, V., & Singh, S. (2002). Anxiety disorders: psychological assessment and treatment. New Delhi; Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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