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5 ways to make your anxiety work for you rather than against you

5 ways to make your anxiety work for you rather than against you

Remember that anxiety is, at its root, always simply about our thoughts. Anxiety is a fear of something that might happen in the future. Have you ever been worried about things that haven’t happened yet? That’s anxiety right  there. It is normal to sometimes feel concern about future events, so make your anxiety work for you rather than against you.

Use your anxiety to identify positive changes you need to make.

No one likes feeling stressed or anxious. Always remember that anxiety is simply one of nature’s signposts for change. You may feel that racing heart beating, feel a bit breathless or a dull feeling in your tummy. These anxiety symptoms will be because your mind is concerned about something and your mind wants you to find a solution. In ancient times anxiety was normally about an immanent danger. For our ancestors the solution was often to either stand and fight or get out of there and flee. Today we still have an anxiety response to events that feel worrying.

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In today’s hectic world, our fears are more about work, family or personal issues than any imminent danger. Consider what is really worrying you and then create a plan of action to deal with the source of stress. If you are anxious about an exam or work presentation, sit down and thoroughly prepare. Remember that anxiety is lowered when you know clearly how to cope with the stressful situation.

Use your anxiety to identify what is important to you.

Have you ever got annoyed about something that you don’t care about? That was a trick question, of course! We only feel concern about those people or events that we actually care about. If you didn’t love someone, you wouldn’t worry about their safety. If you didn’t want that new job then you wouldn’t get nervous for the interview. If you feel guilty since you aren’t motivated to do an activity or project, perhaps don’t use that as a stick with which to beat yourself up. Your lack of concern isn’t always laziness. If the activity really was meaningful for you, then you would indeed be motivated to act. Here your lack of anxiety may in fact point to this activity not being as important as you perhaps originally thought it to be.

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Look after your well being when under stress.

It is common to want to press ahead and put life on hold until you have dealt with the anxiety producing situation or source of stress. Don’t allow stress to prevent you looking after yourself. We all need to eat healthily, have ways to relax and ways to get gentle exercise. Don’t tell yourself that it is okay to neglect your health and well being. In fact the opposite is the case. It is really exactly during those times when you feel higher levels of stress or anxiety, that exercise and relaxation are very important. Don’t put looking after your well being on hold.

Use anxiety as an opportunity for self growth.

Sometimes we find it hard to accept events to be simply as they are. This leads to feelings of stress and anxiety. Decide what you can control and what you can change. Let go of what is holding you back from just accepting things as they truly are. Sitting in traffic can feel stressful until you discover the liberating feeling of just allowing things to be just as they are. You can’t control the weather, the traffic, other people’s behaviour or the outcome of many events. Allow stress and anxiety to be reminders to let go of wanting to always be in control. Take a flexible approach since, let’s be honest, though you may feel like you are doing something, often getting stressed will have absolutely no effect on the outcome. Work hard to make the changes that are needed but don’t allow events to govern how you feel inside. Practices such as Mindfulness, help you stay flexible in thought, whilst still being focused on what needs to be achieved.

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Anxiety is not your enemy.

It is okay to sometimes feel stressed and it’s okay to be worried about aspects of life. See your emotions as guides to help you make positive changes. Healthy responses to anxiety and stress are about listening to your thoughts and hearing the messages from your body. If you feel worry, consider what to do. No one likes feeling worried or anxious. However don’t ignore these feelings or suppress them.

Do you ever use an unhealthy or addictive behavior pattern to avoid feeling anxious or worried? Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, drug use, zoning out in front of the television, staring at your smartphone or your tablet, are all examples of behaviors often used to avoid dealing with feelings such as anxiety. Are you ever busy just to be busy or overeat when feeling stressed? Notice any common unhealthy behavior habits. Sometimes we can get addicted to things which initially feel positive such as going to gym or exercise. Do you ever overexercise as a way to feel better about feeling anxious? Notice any habits which seem to have gotten a little unhealthy. This pattern may be there to help you avoid thinking about a fear or concern that needs attention. Find ways to relax that leave your mind relaxed and body calm.

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(Of course we are talking here about reasonable level of anxiety. If you are feeling a constant feeling of anxiety without any clear cause seek the advice of suitable professional such as your GP.)

Featured photo credit: irl-looking-at-the-sea-through-sunglasses via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

Reference

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