You Can Cope with Anxiety

By Marilyn Landreth, M.A.

Fear and anxiety are natural responses to any experienced or perceived threat. It is how you deal with them that counts.

Fear occurs as a result things happening quickly that throw you into an anxious state. When you are under threat, you don’t have time to weigh the pros and cons of your actions; you have to react fast. Fear is a signal response that is meant to help protect you and help you survive.

Mark Twain said, “Courage is the mastery of fear-not absence of fear.”

Anxiety, on the other hand, occurs when the threat is vague or ill defined. It is a painful or apprehensive uneasiness of the mind over an impending or anticipated ill. There may be times when you feel very anxious and you have the perception of a threat but don’t quite know what is causing the concern.  Anxiety comes from a part of our system recognizing a threat, but to our conscious mind it is not clear what it is.

Anxiety can result in a fight or flight response. The adrenalin flows and you are ready to do something. Symptoms of anxiety include physiological responses such as: difficulty breathing or breathlessness, rapid or pounding heartbeat, sweating, sweaty hands, dry mouth, tightness in the chest, dizziness, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, diarrhea. tension headache, and cramps. Symptoms of anxiety are found in physical ailments such as cardiovascular problems, asthma, diabetes, and hypothyroidism.

While anxiety can be a symptom of a physical ailment, it can also come from medications. Stimulants, thyroid supplements, cold medication, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, blood pressure medications, steroids, and, ironically, antidepressants may also cause anxiety.

In fact, up until a few years ago, some people would see a psychiatrist with anxiety neurosis until they became aware of a condition called “caffeinism.” They just needed to reduce their coffee intake .. Watching your caffeine intake can make a difference.

What type of people are prone to anxiety that interferes with their life? There are several characteristics. They may be highly creative, have above average intelligence, and have a very active imagination. They may be prone to black-or-white, either-or thinking. They are generally people who have a strong need for external approval. They are perfectionists who hold themselves to extremely high standards. They are often people who need to control feelings.

Many times, but not always, the first anxiety attack occurs after a prolonged period of stress, usually accompanied by poor nutritional habits. After experiencing a bout with fear or anxiety, fear of having another attack compounds the problem. Now you can be anxious about being anxious.

The first step to coping with anxiety is to recognize that you are feeling anxious. Don’t let those feelings scare you.Remember, the feelings are only a signal.

Give yourself permission to feel anxious about whatever is bothering you. It is okay and normal to have anxiety.

Be a friend to yourself. Engage in compassionate self-talk:
• to empower and motivate yourself and others
• to calm yourself in a difficult situation
• to reassure yourself when you are feeling anxious and depressed
• to have compassion for yourself and others
• to talk to yourself in ways that reinforce your strength and courage, rather than your fears, to help you get to where you want to be
• to praise yourself, to mean it, and believe it
• to give yourself encouragement when you think you’ve done something to feel good about.

Other methods of coping with anxiety include getting busy and doing something productive with the energy that is generated. Go for a walk, run around the block, clean your closet do deep breathing, or throw blue rock ( lay pigeons). Find humor in the day-to- day challenges. Relaxation training can be helpful since it is difficult to be relaxed and anxious at the same time. Express
your feelings. Write them on a piece of paper and then tear them up or talk to someone about your feelings. Developing a belief in a power bigger an yourself can also go a long way in reducing anxiety.

Mark Twain said, “Courage is the mastery of fear-not absence of fear.” General George Patton wrote in his autobiography that, “I learned very early in my life never to take counsel of my fears.” And William James once wrote, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”

Remember, learned fear and anxiety are normal and serve as an alarm system. We have a choice about how respond to that alarm.