Experiencing anxiety doesn’t mean that you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Anxiety is common, and there are ways to accept it as part of your life.
Webster’s Dictionary defines anxiety as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
Typically, having an anxiety disorder means you experience anxiety in excess whether it is real or perceived. A mental health professional can help you to navigate your anxiety and the degree of impact it has on your life.
Whether you have an anxiety disorder or feel typical amounts of anxiety, it can feel uncomfortable in your body. The physical sensation may not feel pleasant.
Often, your body will tense up, increase sweat production, increase heart rate, and may even create gastrointestinal issues.
There is no surprise that you may want to avoid anxiety rather than coming to a place of acceptance. It is uncomfortable both physically and mentally.
The secret to accepting anxiety is simple, though it is not always easy.
1. Do the next right thing for you.
When you feel anxiety, the next right thing for you may not be for the anxiety to stop all together. In fact, that might not be possible in the moment. Instead, the next right thing may be to breathe or say the serenity prayer.
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Even if you aren’t religious or spiritual, the serenity prayer can create a moment of pause and helpful reflection.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
A breath or pause can be helpful when you are coming to a place of acceptance with anxiety. You will experience the feeling throughout your lifetime.
It is not a matter of removing the feeling but rather helping yourself build emotional regulation so that each time you feel it, you can get better at handling the feeling.
2. Be preventative.
By meeting your basic needs, you can help prevent or lessen anxiety. When you are able to get enough sleep, eat well, and move your body, you can help yourself prevent anxiety. It may not seem like a big deal when you don’t take care of yourself, and it is difficult to regulate when your needs are not met.
A saying in the rooms of recovery is that you need to put your own oxygen mask on first before you put the mask on others. You are not selfish for taking care of your needs. It can help you shift from survival mode.
If you are struggling with meeting your basic needs like getting enough sleep, eating, moving your body, taking care of your financial needs, this is an indicator that seeking additional help may be needed and necessary.
3. Lean into your anxiety.
If you are feeling incredibly anxious, there is no point of telling yourself that you shouldn’t feel that way. You are feeling that way, so do your best in the moment.
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This means that you may not be able to stop it, and you can develop certain healthy habits when the feeling arises.
Anxiety can stem from a lack of control or uncertainty, so think about ways you can feel in control during the moment.
Acknowledge your feelings. Show yourself compassion, perhaps by placing your hand over your heart as you take a deep breath in and out. Ground yourself and look around to what you can do now.
Look for ways you can move the anxious feelings through your body if you are having trouble grounding.
This may include actions like putting away dishes, wiping down a counter, mopping a floor, taking a walk, doing a few jumping jacks, or making a meal.
Moving the anxiety through with a nearby action can be useful. It can help you to stay in the present moment and increase emotion regulation.
It may be helpful to make a list of activities you can engage in, mindfully, when anxiety arises and becomes intense.
Having helpful things listed before higher levels of anxiety set it, can be helpful in those moments when you feel overwhelmed and are having difficulty thinking about what can be helpful in feeling and moving through the anxiety.
Once you have grounded, then you can make the next best choice for you.
These small actions can help you to reduce uncomfortable feelings and ease chronic anxiety.
4. Lessen extreme thinking.
Black and white thinking can be harmful to your mental health. When you think in extremes, the result is often catastrophic, which is not helpful when you are trying to lessen anxiety.
Since anxiety comes from fear of the unknown, replacing negative self-talk with loving self-talk can be helpful.
Acknowledging that you are stuck can be a first step. You can give yourself permission to think things through. In times of heightened anxiety, know that your thinking may be distorted in the moment.
This is when it can be helpful to reach out to a trusted friend or professional to help you reality check.
You can say, “Hey, do you have a minute to reality check with me?”
Reaching out for help can be scary, and it can help reduce or dissolve anxiety.
5. Connect with nature.
Walking or moving through nature can help with perspective taking. Catastrophic thinking tends to get bigger quickly.
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When you take a moment to step outside and get some fresh air, you can weigh a different perspective. In the rooms of recovery, a slogan used is don’t believe everything you think.
If your thoughts are the problem, they can also be the solution. Anxiety can come from a lack of control. It’s okay to have chaos around you and peace within you.
Accepting anxiety means that two extremes can be true at the same time.
Nature can help you get there.
Anxiety likely will not go away completely and that’s a good thing. A healthy amount of anxiety is what gets us to work in the morning, it helps us be aware of our needs and what needs to be done to take care of ourselves.
Setting expectations for yourself can be helpful so that you aren’t disappointed every time you have an anxious thought or anxious feeling.
You can accept anxiety without removing it from your life altogether.
When your anxiety becomes overwhelming, a trusted therapist or mental health professional can help. At Denver Metro Counseling, we have many Denver therapists in Colorado who specialize in anxiety and are ready to help.