Anxiety is something that millions of people manage as best they can on a day to day basis. They go to work or spend time with their friends and family while doing anything they can to fight their anxiety back. Some days are better than others, and most people with anxiety can still lead close to normal lives, but all the while they're plagued by the knowledge that they're fighting their anxiety every day.
Anxiety isn't something you want to manage. It's something you want to cure. You want to learn how to eliminate your anxiety permanently so that it will never come back again. We'll explore how to do that in this article.
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The Difference Between Managing and Elimination
Managing your anxiety is when you can control your anxiety in certain situations or on certain days. You're "managing it" on the days that you wake up feeling less anxiety than normal or manage to get through your day without an anxiety and panic attack. You know the anxiety is there, and you know that you deal with it daily, but there are times when it's a bit more controlled than others.
Curing your anxiety is when your anxiety is gone, and you don't worry about it coming back. It's when you have eliminated the feeling that your anxiety is going to affect you, and while there may be a day or two when you feel anxious simply because sometimes people do experience anxiety in life, it's otherwise completely eliminated. Learn more with my free 7 minute anxiety test.
How to Eliminate Anxiety
It starts with commitment. There is no magic pill or miracle cure that can stop your anxiety overnight. If you're not committed to eliminating your anxiety than you'll never be able to truly get rid of it because it's something you need to work on continuously until it's gone, even if you have setbacks once in a while.
The next step is to show a willingness to change things in your life to create that anxiety. There are going to be some challenges and tough decisions, including reducing the time you spend with those that create anxiety and avoiding anxiety fueling activities. But those changes are going to have an effect in the long run.
Once you've shown a willingness to do those two important steps, you can eliminate anxiety with the following:
Replacement Coping Tools
It's very important that you learn replacement methods of coping with anxiety. Anxiety itself is a problem with coping, and unfortunately many of the things people use to replace it, including:
- Being Alone
Are ineffective as an overall strategy.
What do we mean by ineffective?
Certainly there are some excellent medications for anxiety. Being alone can also be a great way to regroup, especially if you need some time to de-stress. But neither medication nor being alone nor many of the other behaviors people use to cope with their anxiety are effective as "treatments."
Coping isn't actually a behavior. It's more of a mental ability - one that you need to practice in order to create.
So when we talk about coping tools, we're really talking about behaviors and activities that give you the best opportunity to re-learn your mental coping skill. These are activities that provide you with healthy distractions, potentially with their own benefit on your anxiety. But always remember - stress and anxiety coping is your own mental ability to overcome anxiety, not some type of behavior. These are simply considered some of the most useful methods of helping your brain regain its coping ability.
- Jogging Far and away the best coping tool is jogging. All exercise is valuable, but jogging especially seems to produce a healthy amount of neurotransmitters that support mood. It also tires the muscles to reduce the severity of anxiety symptoms, burns away the stress hormone cortisol and appears to have a healthy distracting effect on the mind. Combined, jogging is one of the best replacement coping tools you can do.
- Yoga Similarly, many people try yoga instead. Yoga provides similar exercise benefits, and has a spiritual effect that many find valuable. But beyond that, yoga involves a great deal of self-control, and that self-control appears to be beneficial for those that need to distract their mind from their anxieties.
- Art People say that art is useful for anxiety because it allows you to express yourself. It's likely more than that though, especially since many people don't really feel that they know how to be artists. The reason art is beneficial is very similar to yoga. It takes a great deal of focus and control, and in order to do art you're ignoring at least some of your anxiety. In addition, art provides the sense of accomplishment, and in some cases can improve emotions. This makes it doubly valuable as a coping strategy.
- Puzzles and Mental Challenges The key thing to understand is that when you have anxiety, your mind is often your enemy. It becomes far too easy to allow your thoughts to drift off in negative ways. That's where puzzles and other mental challenges come in. There are even those that do math when they have anxiety. These types of activities are mentally distracting, and when you're engaged in a puzzle you're going to find it harder to fully focus on your anxiety.
- Happy Music Music is an incredibly emotional tool, and many people realize how good music is for coping. But it's not just any music - it should be music that actually puts you in that happy and upbeat mood. Many people like to listen to sad romance songs when they're sad, but studies have shown that this type of behavior doesn't really improve mood. Ideally, you should listen to upbeat and happy songs that represent the mood you want to feel.
These are just examples of the ways that you can work on coping. These activities distract you to the point where your brain has an easier time overcoming the anxiety, and you can re-learn the coping skills necessary to eliminate that anxiety in the future. You can also come up with your own. If you enjoy skipping rocks, for example, then to go the park or beach and start skipping rocks.
As long as the activity cannot cause anxiety and the enjoyment it gets isn't masking your anxiety (for example, shopping may provide temporary highs, but they are simply using an object to dull the pain, not an activity that allows you to overcome it), then it is a good coping strategy and represents a powerful way to start overcoming anxiety.
Facing the Anxiety Triggers
Another important component of eliminating anxiety is to learn to face your anxiety triggers and not fear the anxiety itself. The mind is remarkably adaptive. Studies have shown that placing a person in direct contact with a fearful stimulus causes them to adapt and get used to that stimulus over time.
They used to do this with a psychological technique known as "flooding," which has since fallen out of favor due to safety concerns but provides some useful insight into how the mind works. Flooding involved placing a person with a phobia in a room with the items they fear until they are no longer afraid. Someone with a deathly fear of spiders would be in a room filled with spiders. Someone with a fear of rats would be in a room filled with rats.
At first, the people were so terrified they had horrific fear reactions, possibly even coming close to passing out. But they were not allowed to leave until the fear subsided. Over time, their minds adjusted, because the mind doesn't want to stay "afraid" of some type of fear stimulus for that long, especially since nothing happens. By the time they would leave the room, they would no longer be afraid of the stimulus.
This type of activity is best done in the presence of an expert, because the person can monitor you to ensure that your fear isn't too strong as well as talk you down from any extreme fear you experience. But there are many ways that you can "face" your anxiety so that your mind doesn't find those fears as stressful. Some examples include:
- Forcing Fearful Thoughts Those that often get fear-inducing thoughts can consider having them on purpose for an extended period of time every day until those thoughts cause less distress. Those with obsessions, for example, can figure out what their obsessions are and then openly think about them on purpose until they get less stressed. These types of behaviors can eliminate anxiety permanently over time if you learn how to do them often.
- Anxiety Triggers You can also get used to various anxiety triggers. If you have panic attacks and you often find that you get a panic attack when you feel dizzy, you can spin around in a chair and get used to dizziness. If you have panic attacks in the mall, you can go to the mall often until you stop fearing the mall. All of these can trigger attacks, but over time if you allow yourself to experience those attacks you may find that you feel better.
- Desensitizing the Emotion Another option is to simply get used to an emotion altogether. Consider social phobia, where a person is afraid of embarrassing themselves socially (among other issues). This person can consider going out in public dressed in an embarrassing outfit and doing something embarrassing until being embarrassed isn't as much of a problem. It's something that takes considerable commitment and work, but if you can get used to the emotion that you're afraid of (embarrassment, in this case), you can potentially decrease the fear you have overall.
These are examples of facing anxiety fears, and they can be very valuable ways to address and attack your anxiety. Alone they may not eliminate anxiety altogether, but combined with other useful tools they can be very powerful.
Facing Fears For Your Anxiety
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Changing Thoughts and Positive Thinking
Finally, to eliminate your anxiety you're going to also need to learn how to change your thoughts and think with far more positive energy. This can be extremely tough for people, which is why many people choose to have cognitive behavioral therapy. But there are ways to change thoughts so that your future looks more anxiety free. Consider the following techniques:
- Challenge Negative Thoughts It starts by challenging your negative thoughts. Anxiety tends to cause people to think negatively, and when thoughts are negative they are easy to confirm. So when you have a stressful or anxiety producing thought, write the specific thought down on a piece of paper. Then write a list of all the more likely and positive scenarios that could happen. Then follow that up with a list of reasons that even if the bad thing happens, it doesn't matter. Challenging negative thoughts can be a useful exercise for learning to eliminate anxiety.
- Positive Thinking Exercises There are many different exercises that experts recommend for overall positive thinking. One that seems very effective and is simpler than the others is simply to fake being a positive thinker and person for a long period of time. Every day when you go to work or spend time with friends, act like a positive person would act. You'll find that if you do it for long enough, that positivity rubs off.
- Fun and Distracting Activities You'll also need to make sure that you're constantly engaging in fun and exciting activities that keep you hopeful about the things that could happen and give you memories to look back on. Anxiety makes you want to stay inactive, but you need to fight that feeling and stay busy if you want to eliminate it. Keeping busy from the moment you start your day until the moment you fall asleep and spending time with people you like can have a powerful impact on anxiety.
These are all important steps for eliminating your anxiety permanently because they all give you something to focus on in your thoughts that go beyond your anxiety while providing you with a positive way of thinking to combat the natural anxiety negativity.
The best way to completely eliminate your anxiety is to look at ways to address your symptoms. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test now to learn more. You'll find it'll give you some serious insight into how to address your anxiety.
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Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Jul 09, 2018.