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There is a big price to pay for being anxious.
Anxiety will cost you a great deal of opportunities in life and work if you don’t know how to deal with it.
In order to beat your anxiety, first you need to understand it better.
Anxiety is commonly described as a state of fear and apprehension or, simply put, panic. A more severe case of anxiety is called a panic attack.
To some degree, everyone experiences anxiety occasionally during high stress situations, such as a surprise test, a job interview or public speaking.
While anxiety is rather common as a passing experience, some of us are regularly affected by it for any number of reasons, or none at all, and this is known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
I have GAD, and it used to be a heavy burden to my professional and personal life. Consequently, I am compelled to write this article in the hope that some of you may benefit from my experience.
Anxiety is a tricky beast, but it can be domesticated. It has been a long time since I have put mine under control. And while it does still growl at me from time to time, I have learned to keep it dormant and even draw strength from it.
Now let me teach you how to do the same.
What causes anxiety and panic attacks
It used to be that anxiety was an important and useful defense mechanism. A sudden threat from a predator would trigger this defense mechanism and produce a condition known as fight or flight response. (1)
When you experience the fight or flight response, your body produces a surge of adrenaline, among other stress hormones. This puts your body in a state of high alert, so that you can fight the predator, or flee from the danger.
Nowadays we don’t get many lions pouncing at us from bushes. Instead, anxiety revolves around other kinds of perceived threats to our livelihoods. Some of those threats often involve money problems, issues at work, stressful domestic situations etc.
According to the statistics provided by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 18.1% of the population. (2)
Panic attack symptoms
If you can recognize experiencing anxiety early, then you can counteract before it blows up into a panic attack. This is the most efficient way to prevent panic attacks and to keep control over your anxiety.
With that in mind, take a look at the most common panic attack symptoms.
Apart from causing the physical symptoms, anxiety also puts you in a state of elevated negative emotions and distorted thinking.
Sensations of anxiety:
- Feeling trapped in your body.
- Feeling like you are being surrounded or cornered.
- The feeling of dread and/or paralysis.
How to stop a panic attack
Once you realize that you are experiencing a panic attack, you need to follow these 4 simple steps:
1st Step: Flee
At this point, your mind and body are in a high stress mode. You are in no shape to do anything but to step aside and recouperate.
2nd Step: Breathe
To stop hyperventilating, breathe in deep and exhale as slow. It is important that you maintain this steady breathing throughout this exercise.
3rd Step: Sit down & relax
If available, sit on a chair or bench in open air. Lean back and try to relax your body while you maintain focus on breathing.
4th Step: Let go
Focus your gaze on something in the distance. Preferably trees or clouds, rather than concrete.
“The mind is just like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand.” –Idowu Koyenikan
It is an easy exercise, but it is also easy to do it wrong. Be aware that a panic attack will set off a cocktail of stress hormones, and you can’t just wish those away.
In my own experience I did this exercise intuitively, trying to force my body from panic to calm – and it worked better every time. Eventually I learned that I was in fact doing a mindfulness exercise, which literally counteracts the brain chemistry of stress response. (3)
Long term solution to anxiety
All of us have basic physical needs like food, water and shelter; something we don’t worry about in developed societies. On the other hand, deny these needs from people for a short time and you will see a very primal response.
There is equal evidence to prove that we have basic psychological needs as well. (4)
Those needs are the feelings of belonging, purpose, community, acknowledgement and a future to look forward to.
It is easy to see that, if we are deprived of these basic needs, then we will be subject to feelings of disconnection, depression and – anxiety. (5)
“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky
I propose that, if you set for yourself meaningful goals and work hard to achieve them, then you can gradually change your thought patterns that feed depression. (6)
Instead of perceiving problems as threats, we would perceive them as challenges and use a completely different state of mind to deal with them.
Once you adopt a meaningful goal and start working toward it, then you will see a snowball effect of improvement in your self-esteem, worldview, career and social life as time goes by.
3 types of good habits | Improve your decision-making process
What to do about anxiety at work?
Evaluating your career honestly is crucial if you want to beat anxiety forever.
We work for the majority of our lifetime, so you need to make sure that the work you do is something that is personally fulfilling and financially rewarding.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain
To find out if you need to change your job, or even career, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you often leave work and stress about it in your personal time?
- Do you have room to grow your salary and advance in the company?
- Is your relationship with your colleagues tense or casual?
If you feel like your job is a big cause to your anxiety, then you should transition into a career that will better suit your personality and passions.
Changing your career is a life changing decision and, therefore, not something to be taken lightly. Make sure that you read these related articles, which will teach you all you need to know about finding and building your ideal career.
Guide to career transition | Guide to career development
Let’s review the lessons on how to beat anxiety:
- Anxiety is a natural physical response to high stress situations.
- You can prevent panic attacks by counteracting to anxiety symptoms.
- The 4 step exercise is an easy way to restrain the stress hormones.
- Reduce depression and anxiety by fulfilling your psychological needs.
- Beat anxiety at work by making better career choices.
Writing this article has been a cathartic experience for me. I sincerely hope you will take my advice to heart and start doing the daily steps to make yourself a better person in the long term.
Did you enjoy this article? Leave a comment and let me know!
- Understanding the stress response.
- Anxiety statistics by the ADAA.
- Mindfulness meditation and the amygdala.
- Common causes of clinical depression.
- The Rat Park experiment.
- Adaptive functions of cognitive distortions.