Whether you struggle with chronic anxiety or the occasional fears, there are ways to cope and learn how to cope with anxiety. Some of these ways are through prayer, meditation, guided imagery, counselling, exercise, yoga, low caffeine intake, and the like. I promote and practice many of these. This post will address one of the ways that I have found to be lasting and extremely beneficial with clients I have worked with and myself included.
What is Anxiety?
Fear or anxiety relates to a belief that holds us back from doing and essentially being who we are called to be. Anxiety can look very different for different people. In general there is a fear or resistance to moving forward. Anxiety can disguise itself as avoidance, worry, disbelief or distraction. Think about how anxiety might look for you. You may have experienced all of these or one more than the other.
At its core, anxiety or fear is a signal that something is wrong. That “something” can be outside of us or internal. A certain level of anxiety or fear is normal but can become problematic when it inhibits the ability to function at our best in every day living.
How is it formed?
Let me break down how anxiety is formed. And remember each person’s experience is unique. What one person may react to strongly may not effect another in the same way.
Anxiety starts with a negative experience or series of experiences (often out of our control). These could be labelled as triggers because they set off a sequence of reactions (thoughts, feelings and actions).
If there is real or perceived fear (“threat”), the part of our brain, called the amygdala, which triggers an alarm, creates a response which may be one of “fight”, “flight” or “freeze”. A once real fear can perpetuate the fear response even in the absence of a real threat.
This absence of a real threat, or perception, is a lens through which we interpret the message. This perception of the message or event is met with our personality; inescapably who we are (who we have been created to be) and how we respond are closely connected.
Thoughts are then formed which perpetuate feelings we tend to label as positive or negative. Feelings and thoughts lead to a anxious response; action or inaction. We may take what is happening externally and internalize it for ourselves. Then there is an endless sequence of “what ifs”
Coupled with outside real or perceived fears, we repeat these thoughts in subtle ways (often subconsciously) or feed them from external sources. Then it becomes habitual to think a certain way.
Anxious thoughts are really about fear and fear is about the unknown and our lack of control of it. Anxiety focuses on what we cannot do and sabotages the future (which does not exist in the present or may never exist). We are worried about what could be or will be or should be.
Identify the Fear
Take a look at the worksheet below. The following is a list of possible fear statements that you may identify with. Check off any that apply or write your own in the space provided. You can find all four of the following worksheets called Transform Anxious Thoughts in Goal Setting Freebies
History of the Anxiety
Sometimes it helps to have someone else walk us through an inventory of questions or prompts that get to the root of the fear. This could be a friend, a spouse or a trained professional counsellor. So if you need help for how to cope with anxiety, please ask for it.
Be gentle with yourself, this is hard work. There is hope to identify and challenge your anxious thoughts. You can do this, you are enough and you are worth it!
Challenge the Fear
Naming the fear is going to give you hope that you can change the intensity and ultimately the course of your fear.
Targeting Anxiety with Affirmations
What is the opposite of fear and anxiety? Hope and courage. So what can we do to create these? Build up your tool kit of hope and courage through affirmations. Affirmations ground us in the present, to what is happening now and what is in our control.
Affirmations contain truths that directly counter our fears or anxiety. They train our brain to believe new hope giving messages. Initially it will be difficult to believe these counter statements. Give yourself patience, time and regular practice to start changing the fear into courage.
What are Affirmations?
Affirmations are short, concise “I” statements in the present tense that you are working towards believing. They affirm what is in your control rather than what is not.
Each of the following statements directly correlate to the “Anxious Thoughts or Fears” Worksheet listed first. Create your own or change the ones listed.
What do Affirmations Do?
Affirmations address the lie; remember those lies you identified that target your lack of control of the unknown?
Secondly, They focus on the good, not the negative. Remember, what we feed grows.
Thirdly, they directly counter and challenge the anxious thought or fear which keeps you focusing on what you cannot control.
And lastly, they build in healthy new thought habits that become the catalyst to greater, long term positive change.
In order for them to be effective and transformative, you need to practice them 2-3 times a day. It is a good idea to write them out and put them in your journal, on a mirror, in your car or anywhere you spend time where you are alone and able to repeat them out loud.
Let your anxious thoughts or fears be your guide. Look at them and tell yourself what you need to do to challenge them. You have identified your fears and now you know how to transform them into affirmations.
This takes time and patience so be gentle with yourself, take it one day at a time and you will see the change you desire.
My favorite life giving affirmations come from the Bible. My favorite one that I go to time and time again is Isaiah 43:1,2
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk thrugh the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
Our God is bigger than our fears and he is in control ultimately. I can choose to trust in his promises.
I hope that you feel better equipped for how to cope with anxiety, now and in the future. If you have found what you have read to be helpful, please share the love with a comment or a pin. Thank you!
Blessings from my house to yours,