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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How I Calm Anxiety and Start to Feel Happier and Secure with Myself

How I Calm Anxiety and Start to Feel Happier and Secure with Myself

We all experience stress once in a while but some of us suffer from extreme anxiety that keeps them from living their life. They are so afraid to take even the smallest decision thinking that they’ll ruin their lives or the lives of others.

I was one of them and, after figuring out how to calm my anxiety effectively, things got much better. I might even say that anxiety is a thing of the past now.

Anxiety is not dangerous. However, it might keep you from living a good life and having great relationships that will support your well-being. Anxiety makes you avoid people or situations that will trigger an anxiety attack.

In this article, I will share with you how to calm anxiety by showing how I healed my anxiety with the psychodynamic technique. If you’re interested in calming your anxiety, I advise you to start as soon as possible.

How to calm anxiety with the Psychodynamic Technique

After four years of therapy, I learned that you can calm anxiety in few steps. It will take you months to practice these steps, do have patience with yourself!

1. Go to the root cause of your anxiety

This is the most important step in recovery. If you skip this one, you might just well skip the entire article. You won’t calm your anxiety in a million years if you don’t know where it came from.

There is a cause and effect to everything we do and feel. So, try to understand that, diving deeply into your own anxiety is crucial to your recovery. To manage this, keep a journal and do 20-30 minutes of journaling every day.

It took me four years to discover my root cause. The cause was my toxic upbringing. The reason why it took that long was because I was, for a very long time in denial that my family was dysfunctional.

Psychologists and researchers concluded that, a majority of people who struggle with panic and anxiety grow up in dysfunctional or negative homes. If you didn’t have a secure attachment as a child (meaning that, your parents divorced when you were small or your mother had depression and couldn’t care for you), you will become anxious and confused about yourself and the world.

Action step:

Try to go to the root cause of your anxiety by talking to a therapist or counselor whom you can trust.

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Warning: don’t drag friends into this, as it is not their duty to guide you.

2. Once you find the root cause, stay there and educate yourself about it

Let’s say that, your root cause is you never having a father in your life because your mother got divorced when you were small. This means you might struggle with the fear of loss and abandonment. You might think you’re not good enough or that you’re not worthy of love.

Your anxiety revolves around the fear of being left alone, so you’ll be clingy to situations or people in your life. You won’t be able to live alone, travel alone or just sit by yourself as your anxiety might be going through the roof otherwise.

Action step:

Grieve the parent you never had, or the loss of a past relationship that hurt you.

If your father, for example, is not in your life, grieve him. Look at a photo of him and sit through the feelings that come up. Expect a high level of difficulty here. I assume that, if you grew up in an unstable home, you weren’t allowed to feel the pain.

The way I managed this step is by educating myself about dysfunctional families. My mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). I started on a journey of learning about this disorder and what it means to grow up in a family affected by it.

Now is the time to learn how to let go and grieve an unhappy time in your childhood. Read books on abandonment and shame. Read about how a divorce affects a child if that’s your case. I recommend The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life by Susan Anderson.

If you can, connect with the other parent and express these feelings to her/him.

3. Learn the language of emotions

As I said above, you need to go deeper and let go of all the negative emotions you’ve kept in your prison since forever. If you had a father who wasn’t present, you’re probably angry or upset with him.

In my emotionally unstable home, I learned that it’s not good to cry or scream or make noises as a child. I was even scolded for crying once.

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As an adult, I would rarely cry or get angry with people. But that was before psychotherapy. Once I learned that crying is healthy, I would start weeping for hours. It felt so ‘right’.

So, if you have trouble expressing a negative feeling, seek the help of a therapist or coach. Don’t be ashamed to cry or balk in their presence. They are there to help.

You might say, ‘But I’m a guy. Guys should look strong in front of others.’

So what if you’re a guy! If you have this limiting belief, it means you were taught this by someone in your family. Or by your school or mass media. Know that all you’ve been taught about emotions is wrong.

Action step:

Read the book The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You by Karla McKlaren, you will find out more about how to learn the language of emotions from this book.

Use journaling to try and find out daily how you feel. If you start crying out of the blue, let it go. Don’t be ashamed to cry.

Everybody should learn to tune into their emotions and know what they feel at a specific time. If you are using games, internet, drugs or alcohol to numb your emotions, stop that. You are making your anxiety worse. Panic attacks are usually a cover for unexpressed negative emotions like anger, sadness and guilt.

4. Let go of your inner passivity

Inner passivity is a term I learned from Peter Michaelson, a psychodynamic therapist from Michigan. He links inner passivity to chronic unhappiness and panic attacks.[1]

Briefly, inner passivity relates to a fear inside ourselves produced by our inner critic. For example, you might refuse a job offer in another state, fearing that you’ll have panic attacks on the plane.

You are in an avoidance mode, which makes you a victim to your circumstances. You might tell yourself you don’t have the skills to perform your job. Or that you’re not that interested in it.

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The truth is, your inner passivity is keeping you from achieving your goals, so you won’t have to suffer. What you don’t know is that, inner passivity destroys your confidence little by little.

I believe the first step in letting go of inner passivity is to build a better self-esteem.

Action step:

How to build a better self-esteem?

  • Being truthful with yourself
    If you want something badly (for example, ‘I want that web design job in New York’) say it out loud. Write it down. Tell others. But don’t avoid this wish. If you have flight anxiety, you can learn breathing exercises, take medication or do mindfulness exercises. Don’t let fear stop you from pursuing something you love.
  • Teach people how to respect you
    Try to learn boundaries and surround yourself with people who love you and appreciate you. Very often, people stay in relationships that are stressful, full of drama and even abuse out of fear. If that’s you, set those boundaries in place. When you understand that you deserve to be happy just like everybody else, you’ll stop the cycle of toxic relationships. You’ll stop making excuses for people when they treat you badly and move on.
  • Make a list of 5 things you want to achieve (or have) and accomplish them
    Start small, like, ‘I want to eat breakfast daily’. Make a food plan where you can write what you’d like to eat for breakfast. Make it fun and exciting for you. If you love pancakes, go ahead and make pancakes, use Maple syrup and strawberries if you want. Accomplishing this small thing will give you the confidence to accomplish other, bigger things. Remember that inner passivity comes into action when you make excuses for not doing something or when finding valid reasons for giving up. Or, in other words, you’re self-sabotaging.
  • Talk positively to your inner critic
    You don’t have to sit still and take the kicks from your inner bully. If your inner critic starts a fight, fight back. Teach the inner critic to talk positively to you and encourage you. Use positive affirmations to retrain your mind. They will help you in long-run to counteract the negative effects of your negative voice.
  • Set boundaries
    As for boundaries, you can learn about them with a therapist in a safe environment. You can start researching what boundaries are and talk about what you have found with him/her. If you want a cheaper approach to learning boundaries, read Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

5. Confront your fears

This might be an obvious advice but many people engage in avoidance behavior because of their fears. For example, for many years my anxiety kept me from going to the bank and asking about my own debt.

The bills would be sent home and I would be terrified of opening them. My fear was real: I didn’t have money to pay those debts but it made life a daily challenge. Each time I’d return home, I’d see the unopened letters piling up on my kitchen table and I’d shiver. I’d tell myself that tomorrow is a good day to confront the debt but ‘tomorrow’ never arrived.

When I finally got the courage to call my bank and negotiate on a new payment plan, I felt free. I opened the letters and realized that the fear was bigger in my head than it was on paper.

Action step:

Find 30 minutes every day to learn about your fear and make friends with it.

For example, maybe you have a bank to call about an outstanding loan, just do it! You can tell a friend and ask her to assist you during this time and, perhaps, knowing that someone is there for you will make things easier.

If ‘just do it!’ advice doesn’t work (and I assume it might not), try writing about the fear. Ask yourself why are you so afraid of calling the collection agency or the bank:

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Is it because you’re afraid they might find out how ashamed you are of being in debt? Do you think they’ll judge you for it? Know that collection agencies deal with debtors every day and they don’t really make an opinion about them. They just wanna do their job so they can earn an income.

If this doesn’t work either, ask help from a therapist to face your biggest fears.[2]

You shouldn’t be afraid of anxiety because it is there to help you and not destroy you. Make anxiety your friend.

Calming anxiety is possible

Learning how to calm anxiety is not such a difficult task to do if you are really committed to getting better.

Carve a chunk of your time daily and dedicate it to knowing yourself and your feelings better. Do some research about your early life or experiences and get some kind of closure to what they meant to you. Invest in some therapy sessions with a psychodynamic therapist.

Learn how to put your emotions into words and understand how inner passivity plays out in your life. And maybe, you can let go of toxic relationships to make room for positive people who will treat you well.

You will see that once you start feeling happier and more secure with yourself, your anxiety will not terrify one bit.

Featured photo credit: Allan Filipe Santos Dias via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Marlena Bontas

Mental Health Freelance Writer with a passion for Movies and Popcorn

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Published on March 2, 2021

How To Not Stress: 10 Stress Management Techniques

How To Not Stress: 10 Stress Management Techniques

It is not easy to decipher how to not stress, as stress is a part of life. Stress is the wear and tear of our mental and physical being as we continue to find soothing ways to cope with the constant change in our surroundings.

People often think of stress as related to work, chores at home, illnesses, and trying to beat rush hour traffic—which is not wrong—but it is more. Several factors trigger stress, but stress is the body’s internal reaction to fight or take flight in the presence of adversity.

In simple biological terms, stress is the state of increased arousal necessary for the human body to defend itself from a clear and present danger. Whenever we feel anxious, angered, tired, frightened, happy, excited, sad, or afraid, we are undergoing stress.

From minor challenges to major issues, stress is an acceptable and unavoidable pressure of human life. Stress is normal until we are incapable of controlling and coping with the overwhelming effect that stress becomes a problem.

Three in every four adults American suffer from stress—that is about 77 percent of the population.[1] Stress is triggered by anything from the economy, jobs, home front, kids, illnesses, and so on.

Types of Stress

In learning how not to stress, you must understand the types of stress and how you encourage it in your life. The causes of stress (stressors) are varied and multiple, but I am grouping them into two sectors.

External Stressors

These are external triggers that affect your immediate ability to stay focused or composed. They are:

  • Physical environment – confined spaces, light, noise, heat, brightness, and even darkness
  • Organizational – rules, regulation, deadlines, office gossips, pressure from work, etc
  • Social interaction – bullying, bossiness, disregard, harassment, aggressiveness (general human behavior towards you)
  • Life crises – death, relocation, new baby, marriage, losing your job, divorce, etc
  • Daily hassles – late in catching the bus, misplacing your car/house keys, mechanical breakdown, etc

Internal Stressors

These are stressors that emanate from our thoughts, mindset, and attitude. For example:

  • Your lifestyle – not getting enough sleep, busy schedules, caffeine or alcohol
  • Negative thoughts – pessimism, self-criticism, overthinking, feeling incapable.
  • Mind traps – being too personal about issues, unrealistic expectations, exaggerated or rigid mindset, etc
  • Personality traits – workaholic, OCD, perfectionist, etc

These factors contribute heavily to mental and physical stress leading to fear, anger, unforgiveness, and depression.

Stress and You

To consider stress as an ailment of modernity and technology is misinforming. Yes, our fast-paced lives and lifestyle are stressful, straining, and under relentless pressure. But we have actually created these triggers on our own. This is due to a desire for intense competitiveness and to match up with our peers. Stress is different for every individual, even if they are in the same situation.

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For example, a couple going through a bitter divorce will see the man enjoying himself while the lady suffers from bouts of emotional ups and downs. What is distressing to you may be nothing to another.

Take this example: a man works effectively in the comfort of his home yet finds working in a team or office stressful and overwhelming.

It is necessary to know that most of the stresses we experience are self-generated and self-induced. How we perceive (life)—whether a situation is threatening, sad, or happy—depends on how we see ourselves. The ability to recognize the stresses we create is the first step toward preventing stress.

Symptoms of Stress

Excessive, prolonging, and denying the existent of stress in our lives is detrimental and affects our entirety—and if left unresolved, results in a feeling of fear, anger, frustration, and depression.

Stress contributes to simple illnesses like headaches, skin diseases, ulcers, insomnia, and digestive problems. In severe cases, stress can lead to suicidal thoughts and death. The following are the symptoms of stress grouped into four categories.

Physical Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Change in sleep pattern without any obvious reason
  • Unstable digestive system resulting in diarrhea and inability to hold down food
  • Low sexual libido
  • Headaches and body pain
  • Dizziness, unnecessary sweating, and feeling faint
  • Palpitations, breathlessness, quickened heartbeats, or missed heartbeats

Mental Symptoms

  • Inability to focus
  • Memory lapses
  • Indecisiveness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Fear/panic attack

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Eating disorder and appetite
  • Increase smoking and alcohol intake
  • Restlessness, fidgeting, and nail-biting

Emotional Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Easily irritated
  • Anger, rage, cry easily
  • Deterioration in hygiene habit and appearance

The primary triggers of stress are lack of financial stability, job security, family responsibility, personal relationship, health issues, and safety. Now that we have successfully categorized stress, it is time to recognize the one you are suffering from and choose a simple technique to manage it.

Remember, stress can be controlled, allowing you to live a fulfilling life.

10 Stress Management Techniques

The most common stress management techniques are eating right, exercise, yoga, and meditation. However, some stress is beyond these four techniques, so we will try to list out as many as possible to help you beat that stressful situation.

A set of simple yet effective techniques to help individuals identify, understand, and effectively deal with the stress in their lives to minimize the impact.

1. Change the Perspective

How many times have you replayed a negative situation and outcome in your head that never happens? We are all human, and as crazy as it sounds, negativity is appealing and more creative than positive things. However, stress is tied to negativity and our inability to break free from them.

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Changing your perspective is not as simple as ABC. However, you can start by analyzing the feeling, removing all exaggerated parts, pick out the truth (be honest here) and discard the rest. Phew, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Now, take the truth and work on it from a positive angle. You will immediately feel less stressed, disoriented, and angered. It will take some time, but never judge an issue from an exaggerated point of view.

2. Create a Journal

A problem shared is half solved. While we cannot all go about blabbing our predicaments to others, an effective way of sharing and solving is journaling. There is really nothing difficult about journaling—it is just you writing the day’s events and how they made you feel.

Stress takes clarity, focus, and awareness of our immediate environment from us. Well, journaling restores them back to you. When you write down your feelings, you can identify, understand and deal with them better than replaying them in your head. It allows you to separate your feelings, accurately define emotion connect with your internal aura for better clarity.

3. Mindful Breathing

Stress takes peace and stability away from your life. Breathing is held in high regard by Buddhists, Hindus, and Taoists who believe breathing is a system of reintroducing peace into a troubled soul.

Mindful breathing is breathing that comes from the pit of your belly. It is, deep consistent, and stress relieving breathes which calm you down.

Mindful breathing can be done anyway in two easy steps:

  • Gentle inhale air to fill your lungs and stomach while slowly counting to 3 or five through your nose
  • Hold for a second or two and gradually exhale while counting 1 through 5

Repeat this as many times as possible until you feel your power returning to you. As you exhale, imagine that you are breathing out the stressors and tension.

4. Positive and Guided Daydreaming

We all daydream—some are good, and others run wild with our imagination. Using guided images and thoughts, you can avert a stress situation from escalating.

For example, you just had a heated argument with your spouse on the phone, and you are at work. Two things can happen: have your mood down all day, or you can identify the stress and calm dissipate it with happier images—daydreaming.

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Close your eyes and imagine a happy memory. Use good thoughts to counteract negative ones ad build your confidence from deep within. Also, forgive the situation and yourself, else you will keep playing the thought in your mind.

5. Go Back to Your To-Do List

If you cannot complete the chores, let it be. Remember that trying to squeeze in more than you can handle is actually killing you gradually. Even superman rests once in a while, so you should, too.

Reducing or prioritizing your workload could be the solution to the constant headaches, backaches, and shoulders. If you are a mom, learn to delegate duties to your kids or allocate time to work for yourself.

6. Yoga It

Yoga is an Indian form of meditation that combines simple poses, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques to ward off stress and stressors. Yoga is an effective stress relief technique because it deals with the physical, emotional, and mental organs that stress hacks into. The immediate benefits of yoga are felt immediately, but the long-term impact is also beautiful.

To get started, you can follow simple yoga programs online or enroll in a class to help you to master the poses at your own pace. Yoga enables you to breathe easily, improves the clarity of thoughts and mind, relaxes the body and mental health. However, if the twist and turns of yoga are not for you, then you will enjoy the next technique.

7. Add Exercise to Your Routine

Our body is like a car engine, if you do not maintain it, it will crash when you need it most. Regular exercise builds a strong body, no doubt. However, it also builds a strong mind to deal with stresses that affect us daily. You do not have to HIIT or do any strenuous exercise, choose something simple and for 7 to 15 minutes every day.

Joining a gym or community fitness center is outstanding, but you can choose to walk, run, jog, swim or go dancing. The idea is to keep your body moving for fun. Furthermore, if you are the outdoorsy type, indulge in your passion and watch the stress melt away.

8. Massage and Detox Therapy

When your insides are unclean, it can lead to stress. Equally, tired and over-working can double the stress effect leading to illness and mental breakdown.

There are many reasons to go for a massage, and stress is one of them. Massages are an ideal tool for maintaining physical and emotional health. While detoxification is a way to relieve the stress on your internal organs, both will make you feel light and relaxed.

9. Imbibe in the Power of Positive Affirmations

The power of positive talk has proven to increases positive emotion, compassion, and confidence in the speaker. How we treat ourselves determines the outcome. If you begin the day with negativity, you are likely to attract negativity and problems to yourself.

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However, if you take your time to affirm positive thoughts in your life, you will succeed. Affirmations are more than mere words; they are meant to awaken the optimistic and daring part of your being.

So, when you feel that negative emotions are building up or images are flashing before your eyes, take a moment and remind yourself of your capabilities and believe it, too. What you perceive is what you are.

10. Getting Enough Sleep

Let’s be honest, it is almost impossible to get 8 hours of sleep as recommended, but you can get a good night’s sleep instead. Many people sleep for 8 hours or more but are restless in their sleep and wake up feeling exhausted, drained, and stressed.

Sleep is a fundamental way for the body to recuperate for the day’s activities. However, your sleeping condition should be prioritized for relaxing sleep. To do this, ensure your mattress is comfortable and your bedroom is at the right temperature.

If you cannot get 8 hours at night, try to nap in the afternoons and watch your diet before bed. Finally, create a sleep routine. You do not have to “do-or-die” it, but gradually ease your way into better sleep.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, stress is the baggage you refuse to let go of. The more you pile on, the deeper you are sinking into a place of darkness.

Let go of the excess load now. Start by following these stress management techniques on how not to stress. Do you have one or two methods you are currently using to relieve stress? Feel free to add them to the list.

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Featured photo credit: whoislimos via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] American Psychological Association: Stress in America™ 2020

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