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Reducing Anxiety: Not Just What You Do But How You Do It

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Reducing anxiety can be a frustrating process. If you make progress and have setbacks, know that it's not a problem with you. It's normal and a part of overcoming anxiety. This doesn't mean, however, that you have to resign yourself to slow progress and stumbling blocks. What if you could do the things you already do with some success and make them work even better and more efficiently? When it comes to reducing anxiety, it's not just what you do but how you do it that can make a positive difference. 

Reducing Anxiety Is About How You Do It

Successful communication has just as much, if not more, to do with how you say things than what you say. The same principle applies to reducing anxiety so you can be free from this life-limiting difficulty. 

No matter what technique you pluck from your anxiety-reducing toolkit, there are ways you can approach it that make it more effective and long-lasting. For example: 

  • Rather than worrying about if it will work or if you're doing it right, try letting go of expectations and just do what you're doing. 
  • Rather than forcing results, try accepting your progress no matter the size.
  • Rather than launching a huge campaign to act to reduce anxiety, which ends up being too much to follow through with, try creating a plan with small daily steps done consistently.
  • Rather than focusing on what you don't want (your anxiety), try concentrating on what you do want (perhaps a quality life unencumbered by worries, fears, and overthinking).

How to Use Anxiety-Reducing Techniques Effectively: An Example

Paying attention on purpose to how you're using strategies to reduce anxiety makes a positive difference in how they work. You can be intentional with anything you're doing. Here's how this can look:

In practicing mindfulness, being present in the moment, your mind can battle itself for what it wants to pay attention to and what senses to emphasize to anchor in the moment. Practicing mindfulness can almost feel frantic rather than calming as you implore your mind to pay attention, and keep paying attention, to something in particular.

Always find the good in what you're doing and remember one of the good things is that you're in the present moment sometimes. Anxiety pulls you back into your head, but there are times when you're out in the world in your "now."

You can make mindfulness work for you by expanding where you use it. Rather than trying to force your thoughts to notice a particular object, let them drift and spend time with peaceful thoughts where you are. If you are stuck in your head, ruminating and overthinking about worries and concerns, rather than struggling, tell yourself, "I'm having the thought that . . ." picture it moving away from you (even a little distance), replace it with something meaningful to you, and be present during the whole shebang. 

How you practice mindfulness or engage in any other anxiety-reducing trick or technique has a positive impact in how effectively and efficiently you rise above your anxiety. Be patient and gentle with yourself, and consider what might make what you're doing work even better. You are the best expert in your anxiety and yourself (preferences, goals, personality, and more). Put your insights to work, and tailor your "how" to reduce anxiety. 

APA Reference
NCC, T. (2019, March 21). Reducing Anxiety: Not Just What You Do But How You Do It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2019/3/reducing-anxiety-not-just-what-you-do-but-how-you-do-it



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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