Hardwired into our physiological makeup, anxiety is a sensation that can warn us of danger and motivate us to take action. In today’s information-saturated, work-around-the-clock world, however, anxiety can rapidly spiral out of control. In its most intense form, anxiety can even induce a sort of paralysis.

Whether you are in knots over financial worries, an upcoming presentation, or an illness in the family, there are common ways people deal with anxiety that actually make it worse. Increase the odds your stress-busting routine will actually work by avoiding the following seven things:

1. Spending money in an attempt to alleviate anxiety.

Anxiety is often tied to worry over scarcity of resources. Expending more resources, then, does not make sense as a coping strategy. Plus, anything you buy while you’re stressed will likely result in buyer’s remorse. When you’re anxious, your brain is focused on meeting the challenges right in front of you, not on long-term planning or moderation. When the bill hits your mailbox, your stress levels will climb right through the roof again.

2. Expecting other people to alleviate your anxiety.

Like any other emotion, what you feel is yours. Expecting or relying upon others to make you feel better, in this case calmer, puts undue strain on relationships. Over time, your relationships will suffer or break because of your unwillingness to deal with your own challenges.

3. Focusing on the feeling, not the cause of it.

You’re anxious. Okay. So are lots of folks. The more important question is: why? All the deep breathing in the world won’t help if you don’t know why you are stressed in the first place.

4. Avoiding, rather than confronting your feelings.

If you are working through panic attacks, or stress that keeps you up at night, the word ‘fine’ should be banished from your vocabulary for a while. You are not fine. What you are is a person who is struggling with a sensation and working to find a way to manage it, and your life, better. Take a deep breath, and commit to the work.

5. Beating yourself up for feeling anxious.

Do you know anyone who is perfect? No? The driven and ultrasuccessful often struggle with anxiety, but are among the demographics least likely to admit that they have a problem. Having a problem does not mean you cannot be successful; it means you have a problem. Take a deep breath, realize you’re human, that anxiety is the challenge before you, and keep moving forward.

6. Thinking of anxiety as a disease.

Anxiety is a normal human response. While there are degrees that can be clinically diagnosed, many treatment options focus on developing the individual’s ability to identify and manage anxiety-based reactions. Struggling with anxiety does not mean you have a disease or illness; it means you are facing a challenge.

7. Obsessing over someone else’s zen.

Magazines, television, and the World Wide Web are filled with images of gurus contorted into yoga poses, celebrities who swear by days of silent meditation, and articles proclaiming how we are all doomed to die early, toxic deaths due to a million factors beyond our control. Close the books, look away from the celebrities, reach for the remote and turn the television off. Your version of calm and tranquility may, or may not, look like anyone else’s, and the path you take to get there will be unique. Those people have financial and relationship concerns, too, and how they truly relax may or may not be the image they present to the world. Find your own zen.

Searching for calm? Try these Ten Ways to Beat Stress and Anxiety.

Featured photo credit: Kai Schreiber via flickr.com

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