Seth Godin perfectly describes anxiety as “repeatedly re-experiencing failure in advance. What a waste.”
When anxiety attacks me (and I’m an over-thinker, a pre-planner and a visualizer, so yes, it creeps up often), I follow a few steps:
- Decide whether my anxiety is rational or irrational–Is the problem really something that needs to be fixed or am I compounding things by being hyper-sensitive?
- Take action. When overall anxiety starts to get the best of me, I find it’s easiest to break the day down in to chunks. If you’ve ever been a runner, chances are you can relate that it’s much easier to run light pole to light pole rather than thinking of the whole route or mile to mile rather than focusing on the whole 26.2 mile marathon all at once. I look at the moments right in front of me and start knocking out what needs to be done.
- Work towards doing more of what scares me. Anxiety is fear and by tackling the things I’m afraid of, I build the confidence to face the unknown with less hesitation in the future.
There are plenty of other useful anxiety-tackling tactics. When I hit a period where anxiety seems to shadow me everywhere, I first look at what I’m eating and try to cut out the caffeine, alcohol, processed whites and sugar then add more lean protein, leafy greens, berries, nuts to my diet. Not to mention that exercise is the best stress-relief around. Pile some extra sweat sessions on top of the better diet, and wow–what a difference it can make!
I try to be aware of when anxiety starts to take over and nix the negative speak right from the beginning. There are some mantras that I repeat like “It’s just another day,” “This doesn’t define my life” or “This is small compared to what I’ve accomplished.” And finally, when I am most overwhelmed and anxious, if I take the time to volunteer, help someone else, or do something I love, the lack of perceived time that got me in a panic in the first place fades and there is always more time than I thought for the things that are truly important.