Image via iStock.
A bit of anxiety can help keep us safe. If our human ancestors had never experienced fear we would not have survived as a species. The ‘fight or flight’ response we experience when feeling threatened wakes us up, makes us alert and kicks us into action to flee from danger.
It is OK to feel anxious, but not all of the time. When there is no real threat to our survival, excessive anxiety is not helpful. Non-physical threats such as the fear of making mistakes in exams, performing poorly in public or not fitting into a friendship group, can trigger anxiety to the point of being debilitating.
If you are physically inactive, there is nowhere for the tension caused by anxiety to escape, trapped inside your physical body.
Burning too much adrenalin for extended periods of time can tighten and fatigue the body, lower the immune system, interfere with concentration and decision making and negatively impact mental health.
Feeling anxious can be so unpleasant we may choose to avoid situations or people, as a way of managing our unease but that may not be the best way to cope. (Post continues after gallery.)
If we avoid situations because they make us anxious, life experiences may be lost. If we look to events outside of themselves to explain how we feel, we lose control over what happens to us.
It may be an event or another person that is the source of your anxiety, but how you choose to respond to it makes all the difference.
Individuals who are more self-aware can change negative and unhelpful ruminations by reframing their experiences and problem solving.
These life-skills help build resilience and give back control from within. So remember it is OK to feel anxious, just turn down the dimmer switch with these strategies:
- Take off your gloomy glasses and look at what is good in life rather than focusing on what isn’t.
- Smash the crystal ball if all you see is doom and gloom in the future and focus on what you can do, do it well and let the future take care of its self.
- You really don’t know what some else is thinking so don’t assume it is negative, it probably isn’t even about you.
- Stop comparing yourself with others, who cares, just be your own unique self.
- You don’t want others to criticise you so stop beating yourself up – talk to yourself like a good friend.
- Avoid putting others down, if you don’t want others to criticise you.
- Don’t snowball small problems into big issues, ask yourself who really cares and let go of the small stuff.
- Look for shades of grey, it’s softer than focusing on good or bad, right or wrong, we can all do with a little softness in our lives.
- Get rid of guilt, it serves no real purpose, but escalate anxiety into fear. If you don’t like something, change it.
If you think you might have anxiety, the best thing to do is seek professional help and support to find out a coping strategy that suits you.
Do you have another great way to alleviate worry and anxiety?
This passage is an extract from Wired to Play: The Metacognitive Athlete by Psychologist Gayelene Clews which was first published on Yabba.Guru. You can find out more about the strategies elite athletes use to deal with the stresses of life at www.wiredtoplay.com.