By Christopher Mogan, Charles H. Elliott, Laura L. Smith

Part of Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies Cheat Sheet (Australian/New Zealand Edition)

When anxiety becomes a problem, the affected person is hampered by stressful symptoms that inhibit clear thinking and proper management of feelings. This then leads to avoidance and escape; we’re ‘wired’ to steer clear of any perceived threat. Think about the following competencies that will assist a better level of functioning when facing anxiety triggers:

  1. Appraisal.

    This is the ability to look clearly at what’s happening around you, to be able to stand back when worry, doubt, fear and uncertainty happen and understand that this is how the world works. To be able to then ask the questions, ‘How does my world work?’ and ‘Do I have the resilience and self-acceptance to respond to such challenges?’

  2. Managing conflict.

    Conflict with others is inevitable when the needs we have clash with the needs expressed by others, requiring negotiation, compromise and reaching acceptable agreements.

  3. Decision-making.

    This is so often blocked, delayed, confused or rushed by the negative fear of making an error. The positive side of actually making a decision is that it’s also personally enriching as it allows for other issues to be given priority. Decision-making is compromised by seeking the perfect decision, or being intolerant of any risk or ambiguity, leading to the frustration of delays, lost opportunity and regrets.

  4. Learning to deal with emotional distress.

    If you’re fearful about your feelings this can lead to suppression of feelings or reactive impulsivity to feelings; two opposites for those unable to manage their emotions. The outcome of this is to either cease to feel (suppression, which by definition is an incomplete solution) or to go to the other extreme and be so overwhelmed by feelings that normal functioning isn’t possible. Affect management involves being ‘in touch’ with feelings without being overwhelmed by them. Dealing with an emotional crisis is an important maturational and developmental skill that’s learned through guidance and practice.

  5. Managing crisis and conflict.

    Along with decision-making and resilience, crisis and conflict management come from the secure base of an attachment to values and principles. You don’t run your life on what’s convenient, expedient or easier, rather you run it on the pursuit of values like truth, justice, love, trust and honesty, which common sense teaches make us better human beings. To paraphrase Wordsworth, ‘… the best portion of a good life are the many, small, forgotten acts of kindness and love’.

  6. Goal-setting.

    Setting goals directs and focuses your energy, increases your self-esteem and helps you to achieve success, however small it might be.

  7. Managing time.

    This is part of self-awareness. Being aware enables a person to string together blocks of time that gradually build skills and goal achievement. Never underestimate the value of a short concentrated burst of 10, 20 or 30 minutes to get something done.

  8. Being mindful and aware.

    Contemporary psychology has been enhanced by the growth in recent decades of the skills of awareness and mindfulness. To self-skill in slowing down the mind and the body opens up so many possibilities for change strategies, processing intrapersonal blockages and growing the healing mind.

  9. Being an inclusive person.

    This is the opposite of excluding others who have hurt or disappointed you, who are different from or unknown to you. It embodies the truly human qualities of acceptance and love.

  10. Looking after yourself.

    The great Irish writer Jonathon Swift, gave advice totally relevant to our 21st Century health care, ‘… the best doctors I know are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman’.