This is a very important thing to understand about overcoming anxiety and worry:
It’s impossible to control thinking when you’re anxious.
Anxiety is a “fight or flight” state. It’s do or die, survival…
It’s a state that is intended to save your life. In the modern world we have so many pressures on us that just were not there as human beings evolved.
Anxiety has nowhere to go
And so we become anxious when we cannot fight or run. And all that anxious energy has NOWHERE TO GO. That’s very important background information to know before you can deal with this…
If you’re anxious, you won’t be thinking clearly OR rationally because the fight or flight state is not designed for you to solve problems, it’s designed for one thing only…. to save your life!
Many changes take place in your body in this state, digestion stops (it’s also hard to eat anything), and blood is pumped into muscles and away from inner organs. All sorts of changes happen that will help you run away or fight for your life.
So what to do?
A quick answer is immediate EXERCISE. The way to turn an anxious state around very quickly is to work hard. RUN. That’s what the fight or flight state is designed for in the first place. Exercise (and removing yourself from the triggering event if there is one) will bring your body back to a neutral state, you will feel better fast.
The situation is that you have pent up energy, so exercise is the natural quick solution. BUT if the situation that created the anxiety is still there, then you can go into another anxiety cycle easily, because nothing actually got resolved. SO…
Get pen/paper or open a file on your computer. Start writing, just flow it all out, keep going until you can’t write any more. This will release the pent up energy and will contain the solutions you need to move you forward. It will bring clarity. The stress needs an OUT-LET. It needs to be LET OUT! Some questions you might want to ponder…
- What is the preferred outcome?
- What actions can I take?
- What is the path of least resistance?
- Am I creating stress by being attached to certain outcomes when it doesn’t matter?
- If I stopped thinking about this completely, would anything bad happen?
It’s dysfunctional, don’t stress the stress
If you can’t exercise or let that energy out by writing, then simply KNOW, that this anxiety is primitive, it’s your mind and body perceiving a threat, but there is no action you can take right now. Go into pure AWARENESS, where you are just aware the anxiety is there, you see what it is, you are not RESISTING it.
Once you stop fighting it, it doesn’t feel so bad, it just feel like a very high energy pent up state but not so bad. If you get stressed that you’re stressed, then you just add another layer of stress on top! As soon as you can get to write or exercise or both… do that.
One of the big problems in modern life is that our natural behavior so often isn’t allowed. So we aren’t ALLOWED to act in the moment if we’re stressed, there are so many expectations on us of how to behave. That’s when repression causes problems, it’s unnatural, so we need a safe outlet. You can’t just ACT OUT because you will create a lot of collateral damage, you know this, that’s why you can end up like the proverbial swan… graceful on the surface and paddling like mad underneath.
Long term solutions
The long-term answer lies in good lifestyle habits. Regular relaxation, changing the way you react to anxiety triggers, exercise, diet and organization habits that massively reduce or remove anxiety and stress in the first place.
In every single moment, your current STATE is moving you into the next moment. If you are in a bad place, that state causes everything to start to go pear-shaped, every relationship becomes strained, every decision unsteady, poor sleep, etc. Because everything affects everything else, we can start to self-destruct.
For example, you are feeling bad, then some interaction goes badly and you upset someone, now you’ve added another stress, and then you don’t sleep and so-on.
So the opposite is also true. If you focus on being a happy person, then every event builds even more happiness. Every moment becomes joyful. So the long term solution is to live right and think right so that you are happy.
A multi-pronged strategy is the way to go
Everything affects everything else!
All SIX lifestyle elements I recommend you pay conscious attention to have a powerful influence on how you feel:
- Drugs (get rid of)
- Live in the moment
Start a walking program, eat lots more fruit and veg, get plenty of sleep, de-stress, learn to relax, drink lots of pure clean water, look at your caffeine intake — many people are sensitive to it, learn how to let go of compulsive thinking, spend time with loved ones, get more organized.
It’s especially important for any kind of anxiety disorder to correct magnesium deficiency too. Do all these things and see for yourself.
Removing the trigger
And let’s not forget the obvious. Where possible avoid the triggers of stress. Now a lot of people will tell you you have to “face your fears” and that is partly true. You don’t have to face it in one go! That doesn’t work!
What works is WINS. Getting a win and moving forward is what works. So don’t put yourself in stressful situation that you can avoid unless it’s a baby step, unless you are fairly confident of a win.
- Exercise to burn up adrenaline and return to neutral.
- Creative flow to let out pent up energy and creative clarity about solutions.
- Non-resistance to your state, pure awareness, don’t stress the stress.
Long-term there’s lots you can do so that you never get into a deep hole again. Look to your lifestyle and learn new coping strategies for dealing with anxiety and one day you’ll see it as a distant memory.
The lifestyle elements are powerful influencers of your mood and your state. You CAN be relaxed and happy again.
Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.
Read Chapter 1 “The Happiness Secret”
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19 thoughts on “How to overcome anxiety and worry”
thanks mike for the advice!!
sir i am from india .i have been facing problem of OCD since my early childhood. i am 24 years of age.i face problem of anxiety whenever some work is on my handmostly in examination halls during papers time!i fail to concentrate and instead give attention to irrelevant things.please guide me.. i will be highly obliged.
There are major articles on happy.guide covering OCD and unwanted thoughts. The best thing is to have a read of what’s there and then get back to me if you’re confused about anything:
All the best,
I m 21 yrs old, a few time ago i was fit nd f9, but a tregidy occured in my life,than i took drug for just 5-6 times to relaxe myself,but now i left drug forever,now the problem is that i m looking v.weak just like 15 years,while my age is 21 years.
plz send me the cure or techniques to be healthy according to my age 21years. for this act of kindness i ll ever remain great full to U.
Student of Computer Science @ university of Sindh,Pakistan.
Health and happiness is always a multi-pronged strategy. Please read Happy Guide — it only takes an hour.
Hi my name is frida.I had a 19 week misscariege.4 weeks later I started feeling tense in my lower abdorman.I went to the doctor he checked me and gave me antidepressent tablets.a week later I started feeling breathless and was constantly concentrating on my breath.it took me 5 days and I started speaking to my friend she told me she had the same thing.it basicly comes from a trauma.she recomended me to take b12 and a remedy.I took it and after 2 days started feeling all good.I was very desprate to get pregnant.a few weeks later I got pregnant.and I was diagnosed with a urine infection.I was starting to panic cuz that’s the way I got my miscariage.but I took antibiotics and it heeled.by 14 weeks they told me to stich my cervix cuz it was soft.suddenly I started getting phobeas and fear and stress.it got worse n worse!I went to america and I started feeling like my boddy wasn’t with me I felt I was in a dream started looking around and pannicing inside me if I’m a human being!all these strange fears and feelingsm.weeks later I walked on the street and felt even worse every thing that rolled on the floor I jumped from it got shocks one after the other.started thinking maybe the shocks can harm my baby!made me even more anxious.then I had the stage weather I’m in depression or not.I would love to know what’s the best technick in help could be.should I do relaxations every day?should I take b12?cuz I forgot to say that when I had the urine infection dr told me to stop taking b12.
So stopped but when I got critical I started taking it again.
Please help me asap!!
I’m sorry to hear about your suffering. While there are short term solutions that can help you, they will usually only provide temporary relief. The truth is that with any on-going problem, there are multiple underlying factors that are the true causes that need to be addressed.
Even when there is a single identifiable cause such as trauma, the effects quickly begin to add new causes… poor quality sleep, disturbed relationships, social withdrawal, emotional eating etc.
So short term, you can use things like exercise and breathing into a paper bag to control the symptoms of anxiety and hyperventilation. Long term you need to address all lifestyle and thinking issues that together create the outcome of anxiety.
By taking a multi-pronged strategy you can get lots of factors working together to re-create your health and peace of mind. These factors are the obvious ones… good sleep, optimum diet, relaxation, meditation, getting organized, learning how to deal with worry and unwanted thoughts etc.
So we always need a multi-pronged strategy for chronic problems.
Please read Happy Guide. It will give you this clear new mindset, as well as “what to do and how to do it”.
Thanks Mike you doing great to us even young people we appreciate your work.
Could you please also talk on drug abuse? It’s rampant.
Mike, what’s makes someone lose weight without any illness?
Some of my pals claim the reason to be my studies which demands a lot of attention. Please help
If you’re losing weight, you’re not eating enough food. Your pals are probably right… focused attention in one area means less attention to looking after yourself. But whatever the situation, I recommend looking after yourself be your No.1 priority… then you’ll be feeling great with lots of energy and a sharp mind to bring to your study.
Another factor could well be background low level anxiety which reduces appetite. To remove anxiety means a mindset shift… you could make a decision to allocate x time to study and give your best effort in the time you have, but no worry. Desire to do well is one thing, worry is another. I don’t know if this applies to you but it’s something to ponder.
Get your daily diet planned out so you have a solid structure with plenty of fruits and veg planned in. Then all you need do is repeat every day to make sure you have great nutrition and don’t lose more weight. If you need help with this, I’ve done all the hard work for you in Happy Guide.
What do you want to know about drugs?