Anxiety gets a bad rap. At some point in your life, you probably have worried or felt nervous when facing challenges, making important decisions, or preparing for a big performance or exam. And like most of us, you were probably irritated or angry that you felt anxious. Experiencing anxious feelings is a normal and necessary reaction to stress. Those anxious feelings alert you that something is wrong; anxiety is your receptors signaling for help. You know those childhood friends who are a little annoying, but know you better than you know yourself? Think of anxiety as that friend. Like that friend, anxiety is there to help you and will if you take the time to listen to it.
7 ways to embrace your anxiety like an old friend:
1. Let the anxiety in (and share a cup of tea)
Open your door to your anxiety and become friends. Fighting with or resisting anxiety will not make it go away; it will simply come back stronger. Be patient and kind to yourself and your anxiety and listen to what it is saying. It is trying to get your attention and help you.
2. Get your feelings down
Express your anxiety either by writing your feelings down or expressing them to a therapist or close friend. Your anxious feelings will become jumbled if you don’t express them. Putting them down on paper will help you sort through your feelings when they happen and make it easier to understand their pattern.
3. Stop the judgment
Anxiety has both biological and environmental influences. You wouldn’t be angry at your body for getting a rash, would you? Instead, you would figure out why it is there and treat it. Do the same with anxiety. Anxiety is a gift, not a poison. Anxiety is sending you a message that something needs to be changed.
4. Give genetics some of the blame
Knowing that anxiety is part of your genetics may make it easier to accept. Talk with family members about their experiences with anxiety. Support from others will make you feel less alone.
5. Team Fight or Team Flight?
When a person feels overly anxious, the body reacts as if it is in danger. The sympathetic nervous system responds by choosing to either stay and fight or take flight and escape the situation. Figuring out when you have fight or flight reactions is an important aspect to understanding your anxiety. Do you respond to emergency or stressful situations with aggression (fight) or are you more likely to flee (flight), turn to others for help or try to diffuse the situation?
6. Learn coping skills
There are many different ways to cope with anxiety. Take the time to figure out what works best for you. Some suggestions are deep breathing, muscle relaxation, meditation, listening to music or exercise.
7. Believe you can learn from anxiety
You are your own solution. Anxiety is speaking to you and wants to help you heal. You have to make the choice to allow that process.
Once you begin to treat your anxiety with kindness and patience, you will be able to see that those feelings are there to guide you.
Jill Ceder is a psychotherapist and writer. She works with individuals on awareness and acceptance. She is also the ChildCare Expert for About.com and a 30 Second Mom contributor. She can also be found at Twitter and Facebook.