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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 June 18, 2019

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Making Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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