Handling Anxiety Effectively

Eight tips for decreasing anxiety and living more peacefully.

We are all in a time of high stress, and national disasters often bring up fear. If these fears are not dealt with, they can lead to "acting out" behavior, such as drinking too much or creating relationship, work or money problems as a distraction. To avoid these kinds of problems, follow these simple steps for resolving your fear and anxiety.

1. Learn to recognize the signs of your own anxiety. If you can't sleep, you worry a lot, you "ruminate" or obsess about negative possibilities, or you're unusually irritable or needy, you are probably anxious.

2. Give yourself a chance to complain and express your fear. When you're facing the involuntary changes that are the result of a disaster, you will have some resistance and objections to dealing with it. Allow yourself some time to complain and be unhappy about the situation. Express as many of the negative feelings and thoughts as possible, either verbally or on paper. If your fear is really overwhelming, a therapist can help you with this part.

3. Evaluate your fears and complaints. Allow yourself some time to consider the points you made in your list. Is there anything that you can do differently? Do you want to? Have you made all the choices you can? Are you thinking clearly about the problem? Are you angry at anyone specifically? Are you resisting unnecessarily? If you have a choice, do you still want to change things? If you don't have a choice, can you see some alternatives? Do your options look different to you now?

4. Befriend yourself to build trust. Discuss the problem with yourself as helpfully as you would with another friend. Brainstorm for ideas, realistic or even silly, about what you could do to make things better. For example:

  • I could move to Timbuktu and avoid the whole thing.
  • I could talk to Harry and see if he can help me think this through.
  • I could ask Martha to help.
  • I could find a Genie and have him make this all better.
  • I could win millions in the lottery and be able to buy my safety.
  • I could go on with my life, doing the best I can, and trust that God will take care of me.

5. Do whatever you can to check the facts about safety, and consider all the possibilities for taking care of yourself and those you love.

6. Review and decide. Once you've expressed your anger and disappointment, evaluated your feelings, brainstormed ideas and checked the facts, you will be feeling much more in charge of yourself and this situation. Review what you've discovered and make some decisions.

7. Sell yourself on a positive outcome. Think of all the possible great outcomes of the changes you're making. Consider what you will learn from it. Figure out how you can maximize the benefits of making the change. When you've convinced yourself, make a commitment to your plan.

8. Post and follow your plan. Draw up a plan for making the best possible results come out of this change. Put the plan where you can see it and read it every day. Do your best to follow the plan, so you'll feel safe.