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Published on September 18, 2019

How to Control Anxiety and Calm Your Anxious Thoughts

How to Control Anxiety and Calm Your Anxious Thoughts

Are you facing anxiety that is difficult to overcome?

Anxiety is a struggle we all can find ourselves grappling with. It is debilitating, and easy for others or even ourselves to downplay. It can slowly creep up on you or pounce on you all at once. There is not always one reason for anxiety; there can be a multitude of reasons. However, it is not hopeless when it happens.

When anxiety happens, you must take control.

How to control anxiety? Listen to your feelings. They are trying to tell you something. They are a megaphone for what matters to you, pain screaming to be heard, a problem to be solved, a situation to be bettered or a negative idea about yourself and the outcome that needs to be challenged.

Anxiety isn’t your fault. It isn’t your doing. It may be internal dialogue gone awry, but it is not something you need to beat yourself up over. However, it is a cycle that feeds into itself.

Take a look at the Cycle of Anxiety on Therapist Aid:[1]

    According to the cycle, an anxious person will avoid something each time an opportunity arises, and then anxiety begets anxiety. This is an unhealthy cycle, making it difficult to feel in control of one’s feelings.

    How does one overcome such feelings? The truth is, anxiety may push or pull us, but ultimately we have the say. There are ways to calm anxiety naturally and fast, as well as deal with anxiety and worry to gain greater control of our emotions.

    How to Calm Anxiety Naturally

    “No amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that is going to happen.” — Alan Watts

    Rather than try to solve every problem, remove yourself from the need to be in constant control.

    There’s an analogy for anxiety that can be used. When you are in a current, you sink faster by fighting it. When you learn to float and let go, you will rise to the top of the water and allow yourself to be carried.

    Here’s an example of anxiety begetting anxiety:

    You’re sitting in your car, and suddenly you start to think about presenting for that morning meeting. Why couldn’t it have been after lunch so you could have more time to prepare? You feel stuck, uncertain of yourself and afraid to start driving to work. The closer you get to turning on your car, the more anxious you feel. It is a never-ending cycle as you sit outside your house this morning. Your heart is pounding, your breathing is strained, you feel light headed or dizzy. But… you can’t call off work. You decide to start the ignition and drive a detour to get some coffee, which should help wake you up more this morning. However, after you do that and avoid getting to work, you realized you’re going to be late for work if you spend one more minute trying to figure out what to do. AND you’re even more anxious now! What should you do?

    There are a few things to identify being done incorrectly in this scenario, so we’ll start with that. Caffeine may induce more anxiety. A detour just delays the inevitable and makes the anxiety worse.

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    But what we also do not have is the reason WHY we feel anxious identified:

    1. Figure out your anxiety and anxious habits. Track your anxiety and record the thoughts you are having before, during and after (when it passes), that may help find triggers.
    2. Keep a tablet that you can continually update.
    3. Note the triggers. Ask yourself, “What self defeating thoughts am I having today that enables anxiety to have its way?”

    For example, the scenario just described is most likely a fear of failure along with public speaking. Identifying it is part of solving it. It shrinks back its power that it has over you.

    Once you figure out the pattern of anxiety, you can trap it. Surprise it with your own solutions. And fast.

    How to Calm Anxiety Fast

    “For fast acting relief, try slowing down.” — Lily Tomlin

    Let’s go back to the scenario to right before we start driving around. You are sitting in the car, thinking of your next move once the anxiety has hit. You’ve identified it’s a fear of failure and other such triggers.

    Is your anxiety also progressing into a panic?

    1. Focus on Breathing Only, Not the Problem

    Focus only on restoring and healing your emotional self.

    For a breathing technique, try abdominal breathing. When you inhale through the nose, “your abdomen should expand” and you should “exhale through the mouth.” Try for a few minutes.

    Then, focus on the body’s tension. Where is stress stored in the body?

    Release tension in the body. This is a common meditation. Close your eyes. Start with releasing tension in your face, then your neck, shoulders, back, buttocks, thighs, legs, ankles and feet. Do this until your body is fully relaxed.

    Your mind is still racing with negative thoughts.

    2. Give Time for Positive Self-Talk

    Say to yourself as you sit in the car, “I am capable of doing this. I don’t have to be perfect. I will do a great job either way. I have what it takes. I am prepared. I am adaptable should anything go awry. All I need to do is SHOW UP.”

    Figure out what you can do.

    You may not be ready to give the presentation in this moment of anxiety (or maybe ever ready). But you know what you can do? SHOW UP.

    Once you show up, everything you rehearsed will come back to you. That’s why you have notes. That’s why it’s a team meeting. That’s why you are prepared. So that when the anxiety takes over, you know what to do: SHOW UP.

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    Show up to find out what happens. That is the minimum you need to do.

    3. Combine Positive Self Talk and Deep Breathing

    While doing this, breathe in what you want to say to yourself and breathe out the anxiety.

    Breathe in, “I will show up.”

    Breathe out any negative feelings or thoughts.

    Find out the ending to what is going to happen.

    Show up for the Solution.

    Breathe in the Breakthrough.

    Breathe out the Breakdown.

    Use mantra and meditations that can help. “I don’t have to be perfect” is a great one to start with.

    Come up with a game plan. This is about being proactive. If anxiety hits and you’re unprepared for it, you’re stuck in defense mode. Proactively try to come up with phrases that help you feel better, breathing techniques, mantras and meditations so you aren’t searching around in your mind for it in the moment.

    See how far you’ve come. Recount your life’s wins and major blessings each day before you start, before the anxiety can hit so you can remember you’ve had the tools and what it takes all along.

    How to Deal with Anxiety and Worry

    Anxiety and worry are negative stressors in most situations; positive stress is when you feel the pressure and still stay calm. How to deal?

    Anxiety and worry are interchangeable. When we worry, we may feel anxiety. When we feel anxiety, we may worry more.

    Try to set aside a designated ‘worry time.’[2] Quite literally, give yourself permission to be a mess for a while. The release is therapeutic.

    When you cap it with 30 minutes, you find ways to stop yourself from having negative thoughts before and after those 30 minutes. You don’t stay in the mode. You can always reschedule it if something comes up.

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    However, if you want to get the most out of this time? Research suggests thinking of solutions. Try to be productive. Before the timer runs out, list as many solutions as possible.

    Until your worry time, take a vacation from your negative thoughts. Enjoy it.

    How to Be in Control of Emotions

    Your mind is a garden. YOU plant the seeds.

    Emotions need to be released rather than bottled up or what happens? You will explode.

    None of this is easy. In fact, it’s counter-intuitive to calm down when anxiety or worry hit. But if you can master any emotion, let it be this one:

    Gratitude

    The feeling of gratitude can help us overcome any difficult emotion.

    Feeling overwhelmed? “I’m grateful that at least I got myself to this point so far.”

    Feeling lost? “I’m grateful for what I found along the way, such as the lessons.”

    Feeling lonely? “I’m grateful that there is opportunity to meet new people; I just have to show up.”

    Feeling sad? “I’m grateful that at least I’m alive.”

    Feeling angry? “I’m grateful that I have what I have, so I can make the best with it rather than dwell on what I cannot control.”

    Focusing on what we do have enables us to put things into better perspective. That’s part of positive self-talk, too.

    When you have the right perspective, you can release a negative emotion.

    Practice Mindfulness

    Ground yourself immediately by breathing in and out and focusing only on the moment.

    Methods of mindfulness include grounding.

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    For example, small children may play I-Spy. The game goes “I Spy with my little eye…” and then they describe an object in the room. Other children have to guess the object. The one who guesses correctly gets to go next. And so on…

    Grounding yourself is a little like playing the I-Spy game with yourself. You look at objects around you and focus only on their description. You may even say them out loud.

    “Black pen.”

    “Brown table.”

    “Blue tablecloth.”

    And so on. Focus on the senses.

    The point is you must bring yourself totally into the present in order to ground yourself. This brings you out of the anxiety and into reality and be mindful. Once you are able to pull yourself into the present, begin or resume positive self-talk and continue deep breathing.

    It’s important when feeling emotions, to start with securing the self. The emotions may be there, but they do not own you. Do not over-identify with your emotions. Feelings are not facts and rarely do they drive our fate.

    You must focus on self-care as well. That’s what this is all about!

    Self-care or care of your emotions is meant to be a healing journey. There are coping methods to be used for self-care:

    • Writing in a journal
    • Venting to someone you trust
    • Playing a game
    • Listening to music

    Anything that is a hobby can also be a coping method. There are millions to try, and here’re 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit.

    Final Thoughts

    It’s true, your emotions can help guide you to what you want… but the reason they are there? A certain thought of yours was planted and provoked them.

    Anxiety isn’t random. It shows up to try to dictate to us what we are, what we can feel and how to live our lives. It would rather have us hiding in the dark than reaching for the sunlight.

    You have everything within you capable of searching for that light. In fact, you are a light. Let that be the final mantra you think upon as you work through your anxiety…

    “I am a light…and I am worth being here.”

    What you will do is become that light in the times you feel in least, and you will rise because of it.

    Featured photo credit: Ümit Bulut via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Sarah Browne

    Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist who promotes the end of stigma for mental health.

    How to Practice Meditation for Anxiety and Stress Relief How to Control Anxiety and Calm Your Anxious Thoughts 5 Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want 13 Things to Remember When You Hit the Wall in Life

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2019

    How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

    How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

    What is success to you? How to be successful in life?

    To some, when they think of success, they imagine wealth; others want power; some just want to make a positive impact on the world.

    All of these are perfectly valid, indeed success is a concept that means different things to different people. Though no matter what success is to you, it almost certainly isn’t something will come easily.

    There are countless guides and books to being successful, however, as success is personal and unique to each individual. The advice contained in these books can often not be relevant. Therefore following the advice of a single individual can often be unhelpful.

    With this in mind, considering the advice of a great many people, people whose ideas of success were different both to each other, and quite possibly, to you can be a good alternative.

    What follows is a list of thirteen of the best pieces of advice from some of the most successful people who have ever lived. If you want to learn how to be successful, these 13 tips are essential:

    1. Think Big

      From Michelangelo Buonarroti, Great Renaissance Artist:

      “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

      There are few artists as influential as Michaelangelo. Today centuries after his death, his work still inspires and connects to people. His work is world famous, just think of his statue of David, or the Mural in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

      Imagine then, if he decided not to work as an artist.

      Being a successful artist has always been extremely difficult, imagine if he decided to give up this ambition in favour of something easier?

      Oftentimes, people often decided to put their dreams aside for something more “realistic”. To give up their dream for something easier. This quote teaches us the danger of such a point of view.
      Instead be ambitious.

      2. Find What You Love to Do and Do It

        From Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul:

        “You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job and not be paid for it.”

        This is a good quote to remember and think about when you’re at work.

        Imagine being as successful as possible in your current job. Ultimately you’ll probably find yourself working extremely hard and this it will take up much of your time.

        If it’s a job you hate, then being successful at it might only mean filling your life with something you hate to do. What’s the sense in this?

        Instead, why not focus on doing something you love? When you’ve found what you’re passionate about, you get the motivation to keep you moving. Success at this means the fulfilment of your dreams.

        Not sure what your passion is yet? You should learn about this Motivation Engine first.

        Even if you’re not successful, you still filled your time with something you love to do. Many successful musicians spent years of their lives doing unpaid performances, the only reason they kept playing was because they loved to perform.

        3. Learn How to Balance Life

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          From Phil Knight, CEO of Nike Inc.:

          “There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.”

          All too often, people think that to be successful, they need to make the object of their success their life.

          If a person thinks their job will lead them to success, then they may spend countless hours per day, and well into the evening working hard.

          However this comes at the cost of rest, your health and having an enjoyable life. Ultimately they may burn out and cease to be successful at their job anyway.

          If success comes from having a strong social life and a good group of friends, their job may suffer; meaning that they may lose their job, and then be unable to afford going out with friends.

          In these ways, success, as Phil Knight says above, is helped by balance. Think of it as a balance between rest and work, or work and play.

          To achieve that balance, this Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life can help you.

          4. Do Not Be Afraid of Failure

            From Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors:

            “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

            There is a story, it’s unconfirmed whether it actually happened, yet the message within is none the less true:

            Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb was the result of several hundred failed attempts. In an interview, he was asked “How do you feel after all of your failed attempts?”

            His response was great, “I didn’t fail, I learned hundreds of ways not to invent the lightbulb”

            He saw each “failure” as a lesson. From that lesson he learned what won’t work, and also might work instead.

            Each failed attempt, each rejection, were key steps on his path to success. It is easy to feel like you should give up after a failure. But perhaps in that failure is a lesson.

            Pay attention to your failures, study them. Perhaps then you’ll learn how to succeed.

            If you find it difficult to fight your fear of failure, here’s a guide for you: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It Step-By-Step)

            5. Have an Unwavering Resolution to Succeed

              From Colonel Sanders, Founder of KFC:

              “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”

              This, in many ways relates to the above quote about learning from your failures.

              It’s the easiest thing in the world to give up from a failure. The only way to push on is if you have the true burning desire to succeed, to not be moved or dissuaded from your goals.

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              If you are not truly dedicated towards success, then each failure will hurt more, each set back will slow you down.

              Success is hard; without the unwavering desire to succeed, this difficulty may seem insurmountable. With the desire, it is merely an obstacle to go through.

              6. Be a Person of Action

                From Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Genius:

                “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

                Though it was said hundreds of years ago, it works just as much today as it ever had. It applies to literally any successful person.

                Think about it, picture someone like William Shakespeare:

                When we think of the time he lived in, we think of the time in a way shaped by him. When we think of Renaissance era Italy, we think of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. Or think about the present day, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Our current way of life would simply be incomparably different if they didn’t accomplish what they did.

                You’re probably reading this article on a device by a company that they either founded or companies influenced by them.

                All these figures were proactive, they saw ways to do things differently and did them. If they let the world shape them, then they’d simply fit into the background. Instead they shaped the world.

                Applying this to you?

                Don’t be afraid of going outside the norm. If you can think of a better way to do something, do it that way. If you fail, try again.

                7. Cultivate Positive Relationships

                  From Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of America: “

                  The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

                  The best leaders and some of the most influential people (and Theodore Roosevelt is one of the best leaders and one of the most influential people to have lived) were not those who caused commotions, who fought with people or disregarded people; but were people who were friendly to those around them.

                  People liked them. They wanted them to do well.

                  This is key to good leadership.

                  It’s logical. If someone likes you, they want to help you; if you give them a suggestion, they’ll gladly follow through with it.

                  But if someone doesn’t like you, they may either refuse to help or actively get in your way.

                  What’s more, it’s always a good idea to cultivate good relationships. You can never tell who will prove to become someone who’ll be able to help you in a big way, or even be a good and supportive friend.

                  As such, help people and they may help you; and be good to people, and they my be good to you.

                  8. Don’t Be Afraid of Introducing New Ideas

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                    From Mark Twain, Famed Author:

                    “A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”

                    It is an unfortunate truth that those with the boldest ideas are often disregarded.

                    Most of us are taught from an early age to think and do things similarly to everyone else. This can be great to fill an existing role. But to truly do things differently (and all successful people did things differently), you need to think differently.

                    If you have a new idea, don’t throw it away because it’s new and different; instead, celebrate it. Your strange new idea might one day be the one that leads you to success.

                    9. Believe in Your Capacity to Succeed

                      From Walter Disney, Founder of Walt Disney Company:

                      “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

                      Success has to be something you can imagine yourself achieving.

                      It is possible that you will come across those who doubt you and your ability to succeed. You must not become one of these people because the moment you cease believing and dreaming is the moment these dreams fall away.

                      Keep dreaming!

                      10. Always Maintain a Positive Mental Attitude

                        From Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of America:

                        “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

                        Like the above quote says, you need to trust in your ability to succeed. This is the only way to cultivate the right mindset.

                        Replace negative thoughts with the positive ones. You need to approach problems, not as obstacles stopping you, but merely tasks that need to be completed for you to keep going.

                        If you stay positive and think like this, setbacks won’t affect you so much, people’s doubts won’t impact you and even the biggest obstacles will seem like minor problems.

                        However with the wrong mindset of doubt, you’ll be much easier to stop.

                        11. Don’t Let Discouragement Stop You from Pressing On

                          From Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of America:

                          “Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.”

                          It is an unfortunate fact of human nature — all of us in some way, doubt ourselves. This can be made far worse if others doubt us too.

                          When surrounded by doubts, giving up can actually seem like a good idea.

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                          Don’t pay attention to the doubts. If you are discouraged, ignore it.

                          If this discouragement moves into your mind and you begin to doubt yourself. It is important to ignore this too.

                          This is How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck and How to Overcome It

                          12. Be Willing to Work Hard

                            From JC Penny, Founder of JC Penney Inc.:

                            “Unless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top.”

                            You might have heard the quote that “success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” or you may have heard about the 10,000 hours idea.

                            Whichever way you frame it, they say one thing:

                            True success comes from work.

                            You’ll never become successful if you don’t work towards your goal in life and keep working towards it.

                            Check out this article and you’ll understand Why Hard Work Beats Talent.

                            13. Be Brave Enough to Follow Your Intuition

                              From Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple Inc.:

                              “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

                              In ancient Greece, there was a group of Oracles who lived in Delphi. Everyone who needed advice or to know their future visited them, from the poorest of society to kings. Above the doorway of the temple were the words “know thyself”.

                              If you strongly believe and desire something, chances are that you already have an idea how to get there. If not, you may naturally know what things will help you and what things will slow you down.

                              It’s like how your body can detect danger even when things seem safe.

                              Ultimately then, you need to trust your own instincts.

                              Final Thoughts

                              What you might have noticed is that many of the above lessons are similar — most are about developing the right state of mind. This clearly suggests that the key to achieving success, in whatever you wish, comes down to the way you approach it mentally.

                              Moreover, no matter what stage of life you’re at now, you can still make a difference and pursue success. You can make resetting your life possible when you do this: How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

                              More to Help You Succeed in Life

                              Featured photo credit: Ryan Wong via unsplash.com

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