Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably made some headway with your anxiety. Maybe, after all your hard work, you’ve experienced a setback, or perhaps you’re worried about one. Not to worry. We have ten ideas for you to use when anxiety shows up again in your life.

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Don't be afraid to join a support group or anxiety chat room.

Expecting anxiety

Perhaps you’ve worked hard to overcome your anxiety, and now your hard work has paid off. You’ve beaten it. Congratulations! But, alas, one day you wake up suddenly with anxiety staring you in the face. You turn it into a catastrophe and assume that you’ve failed.

Oh, get real. You’ll never totally annihilate anxiety. That is, until you stop breathing. It’s bound to show up from time to time. Expect anxiety. Look for its early warning signs. But don’t compound matters by getting anxious about your anxiety. If you understand that anxiety happens, you can lessen the impact.

Counting the swallows

The proverb “One swallow doesn’t make a summer” reflects the fact that a single sign doesn’t necessarily indicate that something more is inevitable. The arrival of a lone bird doesn’t mean the whole flock is back for the season.

Anxiety has an ebb and flow. Having an anxious episode or two doesn’t mean that you’re back to square one. You figured out how to handle some of your anxiety, and that knowledge can still help you. You don’t need to start all over again. You do need to move forward and reapply what you practiced. Thinking of minor setbacks as catastrophes will only increase your anxiety and immobilize your efforts. Regroup, reorganize, and go back at it!

Checking out why anxiety returned

Minor relapses are a great opportunity to discover what gives you trouble. Figure out what events preceded your latest bout of anxiety:
  • Have you had some recent difficulties at work, such as deadlines, promotions, problems with co-workers, or financial setbacks?
  • Have you had recent problems at home, such as divorce, problems with a child, or other stressors?
If so, understand that an increase in your anxiety is a natural response and likely to be temporary. Use the new information about your anxiety triggers to challenge your anxious thinking or work on accepting a little bit of anxiety into your life.

Seeing a doctor

If you’ve looked high and low for situations or events that may have set off your relapse and can’t come up with anything at all, consider making an appointment with your primary care physician. Anxiety can have a number of physical causes, such as side effects from prescription medication or over-the-counter medications and supplements, excessive caffeine, and other health problems. Don’t try to diagnose yourself. If you experience anxiety with absolutely no apparent cause, please check it out with your primary care provider.

Revisiting what worked before

If anxiety creeps back into your life, review the strategies that worked for you previously. Some of those techniques may need to become lifelong habits. Keep relaxation in your life. Exercise on a regular basis.

Anxiety isn’t a disease that you can cure with a one-time injection, pill, or surgery. Anxiety is a natural part of life. When it mushrooms to a distressing degree, you merely need to reapply the strategies that worked for you.

Doing something different

We’ve presented a variety of strategies for overcoming anxiety. Most likely, you’ve picked a few that have felt compatible with your lifestyle. Now consider looking at some ideas you haven’t yet attempted. We urge you to do something different. Take a look at the list that follows, and choose one you haven’t gotten around to trying yet:
  • Rethinking your anxiety
  • Facing fear head-on
  • Accepting anxiety
  • Exercising and getting a good night’s sleep
If you’ve simply dabbled at one or more of these techniques, pursue it more aggressively and see whether it works better that way. Anything in this book that you haven’t tried yet is worth considering.

Getting support

You don’t have to face anxiety relapses alone. Talking with others helps you deal with emotional distress. A great source of such support can be found in self-help groups listed in your local newspaper. Perhaps your place of worship has an adult group for people dealing with emotional challenges. You may have a special trusted friend to talk things over with, but be careful not to be too burdensome or one sided in your relationship.

But what if you live in Pie Town, New Mexico: population 93? Pie Town may not have an anxiety support group. But all is not lost. You can search online for “chat rooms for anxiety.” You’ll find more than enough interesting sources of support. Try out a few and see whether you can find a group that feels compatible. Millions of people suffer from anxiety, and they have great advice and support to offer you. You don’t need to suffer alone.

The best support groups give you ideas for coping. Beware of groups that seem to encourage whining and complaining. Also, be very careful of sharing personal information online.

Considering booster sessions

If you’ve seen a professional and later experience an unexpected increase in your anxiety, think about calling for a few booster sessions. Your therapist isn’t going to think you failed. Usually, a second round of therapy helps and doesn’t take as long as the first. In addition, some people like to check in every few weeks or months as a kind of prevention. Again, anxiety isn’t a disease with a single, one-shot cure.

On the other hand, if you’ve never seen a professional and you experience a relapse, you should consider it now. If you’ve had previous success on your own, you’re likely to improve rapidly with a little assistance.

Doubling down on exposure

Consider a return of anxiety an opportunity to practice exposure. Exposure involves facing your fears until they become less intense. Avoidance of anxiety guarantees that anxiety will only persist and usually grow. So, when you experience a relapse of anxiety, try to welcome it as a potentially positive lesson in developing solid tools for growth.

Accepting anxiety

With this tip, we come full circle — back to the top of the list: Anxiety happens. It will return. Welcome it with open arms. It means that you’re still alive! Appreciate the positive aspects. Anxiety tells you to pay attention to what’s going on around you. Go with the flow.

We’re not suggesting that you need to feel horrendous amounts of anxiety, but a little anxiety is unavoidable. And anxiety, when not overwhelming, may help mobilize your resources during difficult challenges.

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