We can spend a lot of time worrying about things that are never going to happen. And even if they do, all our worrying will make us much less effective in dealing well with any situation.
Anxiety disorders and depression are among the top problems in the western world. Around 10% of the population will suffer panic attacks, phobias or anxiety disorders in a given year, yet only a small fraction of them will actually receive treatment. It is estimated that there's been a greater change in our environment and social order in the last 30 years than in the past 300 years (Bourne 1990). Any change causes stress and anxiety. We have not had sufficient time to adapt and adjust to the changes.
There are many ways to help us manage our anxiety, here is one:
The AWARE technique
The key to reducing your anxiety is to accept it completely. Fighting it further stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and releases more stress hormones.
- Accept the anxiety. Decide to be with the experience rather than to fight it. Replace you anger or rejection of it with acceptance.
- Watch your anxiety. Observe it without judging it to be good or bad. Be detached from it. Move into your 'observing self' and study it . Be curious. Rate it from 1-10 noticing when it goes up and down. Remember that you are not your anxiety. Be in the anxiety state but not of it.
- Act with the anxiety: Keep behaving normally and doing what you intend to do. Breath normally, in a relaxed way. If you run from the situation the anxiety will go down but your future anxiety will go up. If you stay you will decondition the anxiety.
- Repeat the steps: Continue accepting your anxiety, watching it and acting with it until it goes down to a comfortable level.
- Expect the best: What you fear most may never happen. Why not surprise yourself the next time you have anxiety by the effective way you handle it with the above steps?
(Adapted from Beck, Emery and Greenburgh 1985)