How to Relieve Anxiety Quickly by Dealing with the Root Causes
There are so many practical ways to relieve anxiety quickly. These include mindfulness, meditation, having a relaxing bath, or having a massage. They’re all great to do, but they only deal with the symptoms, not the root mental causes. In this article, I’m going to cover a number of ways to relieve anxiety quickly by dealing with the root causes.
Thinking and Imagining what could go wrong
To be anxious, you have to imagine or think about something in the future going badly. If you think it will go well or normally, then you won’t feel anxious. You will probably feel confident instead. Look back on past events or things you were anxious about. How did they actually turn out? – My guess is probably okay.
Now think about something that you’re anxious about in the future. Based on previous events, how do you think it will turn out? Probably okay as well.
Here is an example to help you understand this. Recently, I was at Sydney Airport waiting for my luggage. I had been waiting for 10 or 15 minutes and most people already had their bags by this time. I started thinking, “I don’t think my bag is going to turn up.” Then, “what if” questions such as “what happens if my bag doesn’t turn up?”. Then more thoughts like “how am I going to deal with that?”
I realized that this thinking was making me feel anxious, so I reminded myself that I’ve been on about 70 flights over the last 20 years. On every flight, the bags have always turned up! – That’s the most likely outcome.
If I had kept thinking about the bag not turning up, that was just going to make me more anxious. So instead, I started thinking about the bag turning up. I even visualized it showing up on the conveyor belt! For those next 5 to 10 minutes while I was waiting for the bag, I felt more comfortable and more relaxed. Sure enough, the bag did show up, which was what I was expecting all along.
Here are some tips to help you relieve anxiety quickly by changing your focus of attention.
Spend time consciously focusing on how you would like something to go. It doesn’t have to be super-positive. Turning out okay is fine. A good time to do this is first thing in the morning when you get up.
When you feel anxious, notice what you are imagining or saying to yourself. Then, ask yourself, “Is thinking or imagining this going to make you feel any better?” Questioning is really powerful. It gets your mind to focus on the solution.
Imagine going 45 minutes into the successful completion of whatever it is you’re worried about. Notice what you notice, and notice how you feel when you do that.
Ask yourself, “How likely is the worst case scenario?” If the worst case scenario is quite likely, then make plans to deal with it, so you have a contingency. If it’s highly unlikely, then it’s much better to stop focusing on it and to focus on something else instead. Remember, 95% of what you fear or worry about never happens! You need to have this distinction in your mind as to what is probable (likely to happen) and what is possible but unlikely to happen.
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Separate Anxiety from Your Sense of Identity
I wonder if you have ever said these to yourself? – “I am an anxious person”, or “I’m always anxious.”
If that’s you, then remember that anxiety is something you do, it’s not something you are. It’s a feeling. It’s not part of your identity.
Here are some ideas to change this and help relieve anxiety quickly in the process.
Add the phrase “except when you’re not.” For example “I’m always anxious, except when you are not“. If you think about it, I’m sure there are many times when you are not anxious. We just never think about those times. Adding the phrase “except when you’re not”, reminds your brain that anxiety is something you do, NOT something you are. Thank Bill O’Hanlon for this one.
Think about all the other things that you are besides an anxious person. Perhaps you’re a parent, husband, wife, doctor, dentist, lawyer, electrician, chef, dog lover or cat lover. See if you can list 20 other things are you also are. If being an anxious person is only 5% of who you are, then that really puts it into perspective.
Think of anxiety as a feeling, rather than part of who you are. Rather than say, “I am anxious,” say “I feel anxious,” or “I am feeling anxious.”
It’s pretty hard to be anxious if you don’t overthink things. They go hand in hand.
Overthinking doesn’t need to be negative thinking. It can be planning, strategizing or weighing up options. However, if you keep thinking of the same things over and over again, you’re going to feel anxious.
How do you know when you’re thinking but NOT overthinking? A useful amount of thinking will normally lead you to a decision or some kind of action to solve the problem. An excessive amount of thinking will usually keep you stuck in the problem.
If you find that you’re thinking the same things over and over again and not taking any action or getting a solution, that’s a clue that you’re probably overthinking something.
Here are some tips to help you relieve anxiety quickly by reducing or stopping overthinking.
Notice “what if” questions and answer them.
People that overthink things, often come up with “what if” questions, but they don’t answer them!
For example, if you were feeling anxious about a presentation you might have a thought like “What if I mess up my words in my presentation today”
Here are some possible answers:
- Some people could laugh
- Other people might help, support and encourage you
- Other people may empathize with you.
- Some people will be relieved that it’s you talking and not them!
- Other people will not even notice that you messed up your words.
So by answering the “what if” questions, you start to focus on solutions or contingencies. For example, If somebody does laugh, you can decide how you would deal with them laughing. You’ll be prepared for it and have a way to deal with it.
Allocate specific “worry-time”
Allocate a specific time to think or worry about situations. When this time is up, imagine putting those worries into little boxes and locking them. You could have separate boxes for work worries, money worries, relationship worries, health worries etc.
When it’s not “worry-time” and an anxious thought comes into your mind, say, “Not right now.” The anxious thoughts will come up often to start with, so be persistent with saying “Not right now” It will take a while to train your brain to respond to this.
If you find that worries keep you awake at night, then this is a great exercise to do just before going to sleep. You can do this by visualizing a very calming and relaxed room with little boxes on the wall. Then imagine putting your work worries into a box and locking it, then repeating the process with money worries, relationship worries etc.
When all your anxious thoughts are safely in the correct boxes, imagine putting the keys to the boxes somewhere safe. Somewhere where there is no chance of anything coming out of those boxes until the following morning. Maybe put the keys under your pillow, if that works well for you. I have found this to be one of the best ways to relieve anxiety quickly.
Dealing with Uncertainty
We cannot predict the result of anything we do with 100% accuracy. Life would actually be quite boring if we could.
Imagine going to a soccer or rugby match knowing exactly which team would win. That would be quite boring. It would be like watching a recording of the match on TV the following day when you already know what the result is.
Or what about taking part in a competition where you had a 100% chance of winning. I don’t think the feeling of winning would be quite the same if it was guaranteed.
So uncertainty is actually a good thing. It’s what makes life fun, exciting and enjoyable. The problem comes when the uncertainty is negative.
How do you deal with negative uncertainty in a way that will relieve anxiety quickly? – Well, one thing that really helps is a good level of self-confidence. I believe that confidence is the opposite of anxiety.
If life is uncertain, what can you be certain about? – We can be certain about having the confidence to do our best and the confidence to handle whatever happens.
In the longer term, things are much more predictable. If you eat the right foods consistently for months or years, then the chances are very likely that you will have a healthy life.
Same with mental health. If you focus on being grateful, think positive and take action on your goals and dreams, then in a few years’ time, you’re far more likely to be successful and happier than someone who doesn’t do that. So as you can see, in the long term, results are actually quite predictable. Uncertainty is really a short-term issue in most instances.
Knowing what is within your control
People that feel anxious worry a lot about things that are outside of their control. This is especially true when other people are involved. Remember that you can influence others, but you cannot directly control them.
Ask yourself, “Can I really control the outcome, or can I only influence it?
Focus on the things that you can control. When that involves other people, do the best you can. Then be okay with whatever the outcome is in that situation, knowing that you’ve done your best.
Just the simple shift of knowing what is within your control and what isn’t can really help relieve anxiety quickly.
Thinking too much about something can lead you to overwhelm, indecision, and procrastination. A good thing to remember is that thinking is not doing.
I encourage you to look at situations that are making you feel anxious, and ask yourself, “What have I done in the last week to make this situation better?” or “What have I done in the last week to deal with it better in some way?” If the answer is not a lot, then taking some kind of action, even if it’s not the best option, will help you replace anxiety with feelings of confidence.
If something seems overwhelming, break it down into steps, and then do the first step today and notice how the anxiety feelings start to wash away.
Focus on the External World and Other People
This is really about getting out of your own head. I have found that anxiety tends to be an inside job. It involves spending too much time thinking about your problem and not being in the present.
Instead, become more aware of the external world. When you’re walking, notice the flowers in people’s gardens. Notice what other people are doing. Notice the sky and clouds. Really notice what is happening around you.
Focus and be more grateful for the things you do have. Notice the problems that other people have, and share empathy for them. Help them if you can. Helping others will make you feel better, but more importantly, it gets you out of your own head and this really helps relieve anxiety quickly.
Focus on the Skills, Abilities and Experience that you DO Have
People with anxiety feelings tend to overestimate risk and overestimate the things that can go wrong. They underestimate what they can actually do about it and their level of confidence to deal with it successfully.
Think about past anxious situations that you have dealt with successfully, and ask yourself, “How did I overcome similar obstacles in the past?” or “Where else in my life have I used the skills, abilities, and experiences that I could use now?” or “How have I handled these things in the past?”
Maybe you didn’t handle them as well as you would have liked. However, still focus on how you did handle them, and then use some of those skills and abilities and apply them to this situation. Then notice how this can relieve your anxiety quickly.
It’s natural to want to perform well and to the best of your ability. To be as effective as you can. However, could you be putting too much pressure on yourself?
Being a perfectionist is essential in some occupations. You would want your brain surgeon to be a perfectionist! However, in many situations, being good and doing something to the best of your ability is more important (and less anxiety-producing) than being an absolute perfectionist.
It’s more important to make progress and improve as you go along. If you’re a writer, ask yourself, “Would it be better to have four books that are 80% perfect rather than one book that is 100% perfect?” How many more people would benefit from four books that are 80% perfect than the one book that’s absolutely 100%.
You don’t have to be perfect at everything!
Think about the things in life that don’t have to be perfect. Things like housework, ironing or preparing food. These don’t have to be absolutely perfect. It’s not an all or nothing situation.
Focus on the things that really need to be perfect and make them perfect. For everything else, focus on making them good enough. This will help you reduce anxiety and stress generally.
If you’re the kind of person that requires everything in your life to be absolutely perfect, then you are going to suffer from a high level of anxiety. If that’s you, take on this idea of being a perfectionist of some things and notice how this helps you relieve anxiety quickly.
Become an Internal Control Freak
Trying to control everything externally in your life is exhausting and simply not possible. So I suggest that you let go of the things that you can’t control. Instead, you can become an internal control freak! – A control freak for your mind!
There are a number of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) techniques that can help you to become an internal control freak. Here are a few of them.
If you have a lot of internal dialogue or self-talk, try turning down the volume of the self-talk. Although this dialogue is in your head, it can often be perceived as sounding quite loud. Imagine turning down the volume of this internal dialogue. If you can, stop reading and do this now! Make it really quiet and notice how your feelings change.
Internal dialogue or self-talk can sometimes be perceived as very authoritarian. This possibly came from teachers at school or your parents, who needed to be very authoritarian at times to keep you out of trouble.
Listen to your self-talk. If it sounds authoritarian, make it sound naughty instead. A naughty female French accent works really well for many people! Imagine saying the thing that’s making you anxious with a naughty French accent. What might that be like? This can be a fun way to relieve anxiety quickly.
Also, watch your language! Looking out for non-choice words such as “I should”, “I must” or “I have to,”. These words indicate a lack of choice and sound quite authoritarian too. Use words such as “I could”, “I can” or “I choose to.” instead. This will give you the feeling of having choices and options which is probably closer to reality anyway.
If you often imagine things going wrong, then make the images smaller and in black and white. This will help reduce the anxiety feelings.
So experiment with the above NLP techniques and notice how these can help you relieve anxiety quickly.
So these are my strategies for helping you relieve anxiety quickly in your life by dealing with the root causes. There is a lot of practical information here and I really encourage you to apply as many of these tips as you can. They will help you immensely if you work on them consistently.
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