Anxiety seems to be at an all-time high. Life seemed normal and all was well then we got hit with the pandemic. Nothing has been the same since. Everyone seems to be carrying a heavier load of anxiety in the aftermath of global chaos. There are many different aspects to anxiety and reasons people feel anxious. It can come from outside sources such as global stressors, but it can also be due to your thought life, imbalances in your body, relationship problems, and spiritual issues.
Controlling Your Thoughts
This is the biggest issue, in my opinion, for anxiety. Your thoughts will lead to an emotional response and will change how you behave. Think of it as an onion with layers. The outside would be the behaviors that are easy to see and recognize. Beneath the behaviors would be emotions, and behind emotions, you would find thoughts. The core of the onion would be your beliefs, the driving force behind everything.
When people talk about beliefs most immediately think of spiritual beliefs and core values, which are vitally part of who you are. However, people also have other beliefs that are problematic that they have developed over time. It might be a belief that other drivers on the road are intentionally trying to anger you. It might be that you believe that you must be in control of certain situations to be at peace. These beliefs are formed as you think through situations that occur in your life. You come to conclusions about why people act a certain way, why you have particular needs, and what you need to feel better. Many of these beliefs are false or simply problematic.
To break free from anxiety, you must learn to control your thought life. Here are some tips:
Rumination: When you keep thinking about the same thing and it is dominating your thoughts, you are ruminating. Your thoughts will likely spiral downhill making small issues seem large and making you feel out of control.
Thought Stopping and Replacement: You can stop ruminating thoughts with thought-stopping and replacement skills. It may be picturing a stop sign in your mind then forcing your thoughts on something different. It could be signing a song in your head to get rid of the thoughts. The goal is to break up the thought pattern to stop ruminating.
Visualization: You can picture yourself anywhere or imagine something calming and relaxing to free your mind from unwanted thoughts. Visualization is a powerful tool, especially when you feel that anxiety is getting out of control.
Understand the Fight, Flight, or Freeze Response: The fight, flight, or freeze response is triggered when you are angry or scared. Your body automatically prepares to run away, fight, or hide. This response is triggered by what you think. If you are thinking about something bad that someone did to you or are worried about something bad happening, the response will likely get triggered. You turn it off by using relaxation techniques such as slow, deep breathing, and redirecting your thoughts. Panic attacks are the result of the fight, flight, or freeze response.
Positive Thinking: You always get the choice to think the best of others or think the worst. When you think that others are purposely trying to upset you or that your friends and loved one's do not have genuine love and support for you, you will feel upset. When you choose to think the best it frees your mind from worry and overthinking situations that weren't that big of a deal to begin with.
Thought Challenging: To think positively, sometimes you will need to challenge unhealthy, negative thoughts. If a thought pops in your head that says "no one likes you," are you going to believe it? You hold a mini courtroom session in your mind and put the thought on trial. What evidence is there that the thought is true? What evidence is there that it is not true? You can overcome negative thinking by being aware of your self-talk and refusing to believe lies.
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Issues With Your Body
There can be bio-chemical issues in your body that trigger anxiety. When your body is out of balance, anxiety tells you that something needs your attention. Let's explore a few reasons your body is warning you:
Nutrient deficiencies: Your body needs certain nutrients to perform basic biological functions. If these vital vitamins and nutrients are unavailable, your body is not able to function as it should. It is difficult to get the nutrients you need due to our new way of farming. Crops do not have the nutrients they used to have. Not only that, but the American diet is pretty light on the fruits and veggies that your body needs. Anxiety is often an indicator that you need to look at your health closely and see if there are medical needs.
Hormones: Ugh, hormones can be a real pain. When you are out of balance, nothing feels good! You may do some research into gut issues, liver problems, and how they impact your hormones. They are all connected. If you have issues with your liver, thyroid, gut problems, or autoimmune problems, you will likely have hormone imbalance issues as well.
Toxins: If your body is unable to detoxify properly, it can lead to anxiety. We have a heavy load of toxins in our society. They are in the air, the water, and the food we eat, and even the hygiene/beauty products we use. Processed foods can have more chemicals than actual food! Your body has to process all of these toxins to remove them. If you feel that your body struggles with detox, you might look into a common gene mutation called MTHFR. There are things you can do to minimize toxins to help your body function better.
When your relationships are not right, you will feel it! Anxiety is a signal that lets you know that things are not okay. It could be that you are in an unhealthy relationship and do not feel safe. Or perhaps you are not nurturing your relationships well and feel the strain. When you shore up the breaches in your relationships, the anxiety usually subsides. There are many ways to improve relationships. It would take several articles to adequately cover them. Here are some places to start:
Prioritize time with your priority people: Who are you giving your time to? Are these the people that matter the most? Meaningful relationships must be nourished. Be sure that the time you give to your loved ones is purposeful and meaningful.
Work on communication: Problems with communication are usually the number one cause of breakdowns in relationships. Spend time learning new skills to reduce relational strain.
Conflict resolution: Figuring out how to solve disagreements and differences of opinion is a must for healthy relationships. There are many skills that can be learned to help with this. Forgiveness is a must to let go of the pain of the past and move forward with love.
Related Post: Working Past the Marriage Slump
Unresolved Emotional Issues
If you have unresolved emotional issues it will cause anxiety. You likely will feel emotionally drained, easily triggered, and defensive or guarded with current relationships. It is hard to feel at peace and fully engaged in life when you have not yet healed. This could be trauma from your past, grief, feeling mistreated by others, or struggling to cope with failures. Many situations can cause unresolved emotional pain. It is possible to heal and move forward with freedom and to really enjoy life. Here are some tips to get started:
Start journaling: When you put words to your emotions it helps you to understand what you feel, why you feel it, what triggered it, and what you need to feel better.
Listen to your self-talk: You may find that you are comparing loved ones to people from your past. You may be reliving unhappy memories in your mind. You might need to grieve these situations and let them go. Awareness of what you are thinking and believing is the first step to resolving the issues.
Ask yourself questions: Whenever you have strong emotions, start to ask yourself questions about what you are feeling, when you first felt this way, what you need, what you fear, etc. For more about healing from trauma, visit this article.
Seek help if needed: If you still have unresolved emotions, it may be helpful to find a counselor or someone you trust to help you walk through the healing journey. Depending on the severity of the problems, it could take significant work in therapy.
Unfortunately, there is little you can do to change outside stressors such as wars, political upheaval, and inflation. However, you can change how much attention and worry you give it. The more time you spend listening to the news, reading political articles, or talking about the trials of the world, the more you will feel anxious. This is not to say that it is bad to be informed. The goal is to find balance. Get a daily digest of news then move on to your own personal life so that the outside stressors don't consume you. Sometimes making an emergency plan can help reduce anxiety. Having extra food on hand, an emergency kit, or whatever supplies you deem necessary in case of an emergency can help put your mind at ease. When worries come you can remind yourself that you have prepared for emergencies.
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Some people feel anxious because they are overextended. You may be overextended financially or you have crammed so many activities into your schedule that there is little time to rest. This could include working at a job you hate or living in a stressful place. You have a lot more control over these issues! Here are some ideas:
Downsize if needed: If financial stressors are bringing anxiety, there are likely things you can live without. Maybe you can sell some things, get rid of subscriptions, or possibly move to a smaller home. You really can't enjoy the stuff when you are anxious all the time because of the financial burden that these things have put on you.
Simplify your schedule: You may need to learn to say no to things. You might look at your activities and try to cut them in half. If your children are involved in activities, maybe you can work out a carpool plan with another parent to lighten the load.
Decide what really matters: Is the job worth the hassle? Is there another job that would bring more peace and satisfaction? Are there other neighborhoods you could look at to get away from chronic stressors?
It is my opinion that we are created with a spirit, soul, and body. When your spiritual life is off, it impacts you emotionally. What can you do to nurture your spirit? What are your spiritual thoughts and beliefs? Some people get instant relief from anxiety when they resolve their spiritual needs. Your beliefs can bring incredible strengths into your life. There are many spiritual practices such as prayer, worship, fellowship with others, and meditation that are grounding and freeing for many people. Do not neglect your spirit if you are feeling anxious. Knowing that you are loved and accepted by your creator can change everything.