How do I overcome anxiety?

Of the twenty-four patients that I consult with each day, at least half will have this question at the forefront of their minds.

Anxiety is such a common experience – we all have or will have experienced anxiety at some point in our lives. But what really differs is the way that it is experienced, and the severity of each person’s symptoms.

I have always been an anxious person, but never reached the point where I had to seek professional help for it. Instead, I read self-help books and downloaded a mindfulness app. The worst of my anxiety has always been situational, or a result of my thoughts spiralling out of control.

I think it’s normal for us to experience a low-level of anxiety as it’s part of our stress/fight or flight response. When we are slightly anxious or worried about something, we take steps to ensure that whatever we are anxious about doesn’t happen. Ie. If we are worried about whether our car will pass its warrant of fitness tomorrow then we might check that the indicator and brake lights are working, and that the tyres aren’t flat.

But the problem is when that anxiety gets to a level that becomes so crippling that we can no longer do anything about it. It no longer helps us but hurts us.

And it’s usually when it gets to this level that people seek professional help. But some people don’t. Some people will spend most of their lives not seeking help for it for various reasons- perhaps they have tried to in the past and been left disappointed, perhaps they don’t even understand what they are feeling, or they just have so much going on in their lives that they don’t have the time to. And so I write this with them in mind.

These are the points or questions that I feel are important to consider when we are dealing with anxiety:

  1. Letting go of labels: Most people are eager to have a diagnosis straight away. And that’s normal. If there is a problem, we want to know why, so we can fix it! But often, it isn’t possible to diagnose straight away after a 15 minute consultation. Just as this anxiety has developed over time, it takes time to tease out past traumatic events, to identify symptoms they are experiencing, and to identify the stressors that are currently in their lives. And it takes time for people to build trust with you to talk about these things in the first place. Therefore I always make sure people understand- if you feel anxious, you feel anxious. If you feel depressed, you feel depressed. We don’t need to question it. And we don’t need a diagnosis to validate how you feel.
  2. Are you in a bad situation or surrounded by bad people?: I always have to imagine how it would feel if I were in the other person’s shoes. And if I’m imagining myself in a shitty situation, surrounded by shitty people- then I’m definitely going to feel anxious and/or depressed. The thing we need to work on in the future is how we get out of this situation or develop some tools to allow us to cope with it in a more helpful way.
  3. Are you sleeping ok?: I feel like a zombie if I don’t get enough sleep. And I get moody and irrational too. We need our mind and our body to have adequate rest everyday so that we have enough energy to take on the world. It’s really a fundamental need of ours- and if we aren’t getting much of it, we have to work out how to (sleep hygiene for starters, and or medication if necessary)
  4. Are you going outside? Some people get so anxious that they just crawl up in a ball and don’t go outside. It makes a difference to our well-being when we can go outside briefly and observe nature, breathe in a bit of fresh air, and focus our mind on something else.
  5. Are you connecting with people who care about you? Again, some people crawl up in a ball, don’t go outside, and shut themselves off to the world. If we’re lucky enough to have people who care about us, then we need to be around them once in awhile- if anything, to just be reminded that we are cared about. Often it is hard though to reach out to our loved ones because they don’t understand how we feel. They’ll want to understand, they’ll want to fix our problems and they won’t be able to. And we shouldn’t expect them to either as that should be left to the professionals. But if we can let them know that we are anxious, and we’d like to spend time with them but not talk about our problems- then that might be a way to start.

Overcoming anxiety is a journey. There is no real quick fix. But there are people and resources who can help to guide you through that journey. The hardest thing is taking that very first step.


3 thoughts on “How do I overcome anxiety?

  1. You bring up such a wonderful point by saying ‘you don’t need to question it’. That’s so true, because what it does is it allows you to move on from there. Okay, so you can’t get out of bed. That’s your reality for the moment. But then what next? What’s the most realistic thing you can do to make yourself feel better?

    Oftentimes, accepting the feelings and riding them out work so much better than trying to solve it, because sometimes the problems can be unsolvable mentally. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! It’s all about taking things one step at a time, doing what is manageable so that eventually all those little steps become a road travelled on.


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