Use Anxiety to Your Advantage: Healing Stress, Panic and Trauma
Friday, August 20 2010 Kate White
"Anxiety is the interest paid on trouble before it is due."
~ William Inge
In order to cope with ongoing anxiety and panic attacks, anybody trapped in the anxiety cycle will naturally keep using what seems to work. If you're using coping mechanisms that are detrimental to your long-term mental and physical health, here's an idea. After the panic has faded, assess how much of the time anxiety is in charge, and what it's costing you.
Don't Just Treat Anxiety. Use It To Your Advantage.
How can anxiety be advantageous? Ask yourself these questions:
- Are there ways anxiety could be useful or functional?
- What are the causes of my panic, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, agoraphobia, flashbacks etc.?
What causes anxiety? What's underneath all that fear? Maybe the anxiety is trying to alert you to things in your life that really can change.
Set Realistic Targets to Manage Anxiety
A lot of people, understandably, just want to evict anxiety and stress from their lives. But you need a little stress. Sex, for example, is stressful. It's still good for you.
One of the key factors in successful anxiety treatment is setting the right goals; You need to know what place anxiety has in your life, what effect it's having and what your options are.
Anxiety Can Provide Motivation:
- Get in touch with your body.
Some people have had so much stress, anticipatory anxiety or trauma in their lives, that it's like their minds have thrown a cut-off switch and they've stopped receiving the messages their bodies send out. Try stretching, massage, aromatherapy, cooking/baking to quietly reawaken sensory awareness.
- Increase your self-esteem and get out of the anxiety trap.
Recognize that anxiety is built up energy, including strength and resilience. The more anxiety you experience, the more strength you actually have within; Resilience is in the simple fact that you get up and face your fears, every single day.
- As you heal, re-task that energy towards better things.
Try writing, or dancing; clean/fix things around the house; talk to your therapist, friends, family; find safe ways to let emotions out before they build into panic (crank up the car radio and yell at the top of your lungs, throw ice cubes into the bath tub to vent frustrations).
- Use anxiety to appreciate calm.
Really feel what that is like and try to remember the sensations so you get to know and understand how anxiety builds up in your body/mind.
Start Controlling Anxiety
It's simpler than you think. You don't have to let anxiety keep building, or get overwhelmed, if you can acknowledge you're keyed up for a reason. What's going on? What is the purpose of that? There must be some unmet need, dilemma or perceived threat which is behind that, driving it.
If I'm using anxiety to my advantage, I get to check out the answers to those questions and see what place they have in my life. If they're useful thoughts/perceptions, they get to stay. If not, it's time for them to go.
Anxiety helps me come to terms with life as it really is. It tells me what I'm afraid of, where my limits are, and what is and isn't safe.
Some people even get lucky when they look at the uses of their anxiety and realize that, say, their fear of heights is based in something physical. It surely has psychological elements to it, but vertigo can be a major factor in that particular phobia.
Last, but not least, don't let the interest accumulate to the point you feel you can't pay off the debt.