I believe that Anxiety is not a condition. Instead, it’s something that arises from a series of learned behaviors that become habitual over time. Anxious people do certain things that relaxed, calm and confident people simply don’t do! Getting good at anxiety is a skill, albeit one that you don’t consciously develop.
In this article, you will learn the top 7 things that anxious people do. Awareness is the first key to change, so just knowing these may be all it takes to change them. However, I will also provide some tips, techniques, and strategies to help you become a calmer, more relaxed and peaceful person.
Reduce your anxiety feelings and physical symptoms by making a few changes to your mindset, mental focus, and behavior.
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1. Anxiety is Not You. It’s Something You Do!
When you think or say phrases to yourself such as “I’m anxious” or “I’m an anxious person” repeatedly, then these phrases will become part of your identity. These are negative affirmations that your subconscious mind will pick up on and start acting on.
However, anxiety is something that you do. It’s not something you are. It’s not part of your identity. Now that you know this, you will find it easier to separate that anxiety feeling from the sense of who you are. This will help you feel less anxious.
When you notice yourself saying “my anxiety”, change it to “that anxiety” or “this anxiety”. This will also help you detach anxiety from being part of you. It then seems more like a behavior that you can change, which is what it really is anyway.
Another way to remove anxiety from your sense of identity is to think about all the other things that you are. Perhaps you’re a mother, father, wife, husband, teacher, doctor, IT professional, or a kind, intelligent or organized person.
When you recognize all the other things that you are, you will realize that being that anxious person is actually a very small part of you. It no longer defines you.
2. Negative View of the Future
Anxious people tend to have a negative view of the future. They think (or even believe) that things are not going to work out well. They start to imagine the situation turning out badly and think about the worst-case scenario.
A good way to change this is to look back at situations in your life that made you anxious in the past. Then remember what happened AFTER the situation had taken place. Chances are that the situation turned out OK (or even went brilliantly) and all that worrying was over nothing.
When a similar (or even different) situation arises in the future, you can remember how it turned out last time. Then remind yourself that this is how it is likely to turn out this time too.
3. Don’t Like Change or Uncertainty
Anxious people tend to not like uncertainty or change. This can be tricky as we live in a rapidly changing world and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon!
So it’s important to become reasonably comfortable with change. If you can accept that change is the only constant, then you will find it easier to accept and deal with the changes that affect your life.
Uncertainty can be exciting! Imagine watching the replay of a soccer match on TV after your friend has already told you the final score. That wouldn’t be the same. Why? because your friend has removed the uncertainty (and excitement) by telling you the score! Imagine how boring life would be without any change. If every day was exactly the same, then life would soon become very dull.
If your life is quite mundane at the moment, then use this as an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and make some changes. With change comes excitement!
Anxious people tend to “overthink” things. They’re not necessarily thinking negatively. They’re just thinking too much about whatever it is that’s making them anxious. Often these thoughts are about the process of fixing things, solving problems or the different options available. A more relaxed person would think more about the benefits and satisfaction of achieving the outcome and have less focus on how it will happen. They have the confidence to know that the right people, things and approaches will come to them naturally.
So how do you know when you are overthinking things? Well, if your thinking is leading you to a solution or course of action, then that’s the right amount of thinking. If it’s keeping you stuck in the problem (with no way out) and it’s making you feel frustrated or overwhelmed, then that’s an excessive amount of thinking. That’s not helpful.
When you notice yourself overthinking (or thinking negatively), say “Stop”, “Delete”, or “thanks for sharing” mentally to yourself. Then switch to a thought about the positive outcome.
You can also reduce overthinking by physically relaxing. You can do this through Meditation. Alternatively, my Rapid Relaxation Exercise is a wonderful way to do this quickly. Once your body relaxes, you will notice that your thoughts quieten down as well.
5. What If Questions
Anxious people tend to ask a lot of “What If” questions. That’s not necessarily a problem. It’s great for planning. The anxiety is created when the “What If” questions are NOT ANSWERED.
So the solution is to answer these “What If” questions when you notice them arise. By doing this you will develop a plan to deal with any worst-case scenarios that may arise. You will then feel more prepared and better able to cope with these worst-case scenarios if they did happen.
When you ask, but don’t answer “What If” questions, your mind tends to blow things out of proportion. Answering “What If” questions will give you a reality check and that reduces the feelings of anxiety.
6. Ineffective Compartmentalization
Ineffective Compartmentalization is thinking or worrying about things at times when you cannot act on them. For example, thinking about work problems when enjoying a night out with your partner or close friend. This takes you out of the present and reduces your enjoyment of relaxing, fun and pleasurable experiences.
When this happens, it can be hard to switch off and relax mentally and emotionally, especially when trying to sleep.
To overcome this, start by becoming more aware of your thoughts. Notice when you are thinking about something at a time when it’s not useful. Then mentally (or even out loud) say “Stop”, “Delete”, or “thanks for sharing”. Then change your focus to the present.
Another good exercise is to imagine putting all your thoughts and worries for one area of life into a locker (like a gym locker) and then locking it. Then take another area of life and put all your thoughts and worries into another locker and lock it. Keep repeating this for all the areas of life that are causing you anxiety. These areas might include work, family, health, partner or kids.
This is a great exercise to do just before bed or when you’re very relaxed. At these times, you will be sending a clear message to your unconscious mind that it’s time to switch off and relax.
7. Overestimate Risk
The world is not perfect and bad or even terrible things do happen occasionally. Just read the news and you’ll find out about all the terrible things that are happening around the world. A great tip for reducing anxiety is NOT to read the news!
Remember though that in most cases the worst-case scenario is highly unlikely to happen. A plane could crash into the cafe that I’m writing this blog post in! However, it’s highly unlikely!
The key is to think about what is possible but not probable. If something is possible, but highly unlikely then you will naturally feel more relaxed about it. The key is to have an accurate risk assessment of the likelihood of that thing happening.
If you identified with one or more of the above, then start applying these strategies right now. By changing your thinking, you can have less anxious moments in your life. It’s worth taking some time now to reduce anxiety and live a more peaceful and happy life.
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