5 Kickass Strategies for Combating Anxiety
Anxiety is a beast. It sneaks into your mind when you’re happiest, and pops up yelling “Surprise!”, then smashes its hairy fist into your birthday cake until you cry. So here are five strategies I use to fight it.
1. Don’t Do What It Tells You
If your anxiety insists, for example, that you’ve contracted a horrible disease, don’t go online and Google the symptoms, because that gives in to the fear and suggests it might be correct. Just go about your day as you were planning to.
The trick is to imagine you have an anxiety-free, perfectly functional twin (strategy courtesy of OCD therapist Rob Willson). Do whatever that twin would do: eat in moderation, exercise, work, hang out with friends, go to the cinema… (OK, so that twin probably wouldn’t be writing a list of strategies to combat anxiety, but we’ll pass over that for the moment).
This is similar to the step above, but ensures you engage in lots of activity. This is probably the last thing you want to do when you’re having an anxiety attack, because you’re paralysed with fear and indecision – so taking action fights it.
See your friends, do some work, clean the house, arrange your bookshelves or (ahem) write a blog post. Your mind will be confused: “But usually during an anxiety attack, you just tremble and cry and use Google to find out whether you’re going to die!” The more productive you are, the more the anxiety will fade.
3. Turn On Your Humour Valve
Tune into the ridiculousness of your anxiety and make yourself laugh with it: “Yes Ariane, Donald Trump probably is going to have you killed for dissing him in a Spectator article. He’s going to have everyone who has criticised him assassinated – so basically, he’s going to commit genocide!”
If you can laugh at yourself, you’re stepping outside of your anxiety and examining it. You also put your fears into perspective and will hopefully realise how baseless they are.
4. Do a CBT Thought Record
4. Do a CBT Thought Record
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is a way of critiquing your irrational thoughts. The idea with a thought record (available here) is that you examine the evidence for and against your irrational fear, which helps you realise that it has no foundation.
Evidence for Donald Trump having me killed:
He gets hurt very easily
He’s a bit mad
Evidence against Donald Trump having me killed:
He doesn’t seem to have had anyone else killed
He doesn’t have a clue who I am
He has bigger fish to fry
His every move is monitored by the CIA
He doesn’t care about some small paranoid writer from Leytonstone
He doesn’t read The Spectator
The article was published years ago
He can’t read
Generally there’s overwhelming evidence against the irrational belief, which helps to dispel it.
Getting physically active helps anxiety greatly. It’s almost as though, by tiring out your body, you also tire out your irrational thoughts. I find that exercise resets your brain to its factory settings, freeing it of fear.
The ‘good’ pain of aching muscles is a distraction from worrying - and then there’s the fact that exercising is what functional, non-neurotic people do, so you’re moving towards a better place.
Here’s to kicking that anxiety monster in the nuts.