Applied Psychology

5 Strategies for Coping with Anxiety

Aug 11, 2021
5 Strategies for Coping and Dealing with Anxiety

Everyone gets anxious at some point. How we deal with anxiety differs. Some people have great coping strategies. From the outside it looks like they are calm, cool and collected. They have it all together and nothing really gets them overly flustered. However, for many trying to control anxieties usually only heightens it. So, what is a better way to deal with anxiety?

With the right tools it’s possible to identify the sources of your anxiety and take active steps to find relief. Thereby, better prevent it from escalating and managing anxiety across the different areas of your life. Here are 5 psychological approaches to help you find a healthier way of coping with anxiety.

1. Positive Thinking

Cognitive restructuring is an approach utilised by psychologists to assist individuals in challenging negative or problematic thoughts. It helps to develop more helpful and constructive ways of thinking.

“You can rewire your brain to tend towards positive and happy thinking.”

It may seem overly simple, but the reality is feelings of anxiety are usually the result of repetitive negative or unhelpful thoughts. In addition to this, anxiety increases negative thinking patterns. Thus, setting up an endless cycle of worry and doubt. Therefore, consciously choosing to think about something else, specifically something happy or positive, can stop anxiety from rising. It will also rewire the automatic pathways in your brain. Which means, with practice, you will tend towards thinking as well as being more positive and thereby be less anxious.

Five Helpful Ways to Grow Positivity

  1. Keep a Positivity Journal.
  2. Remind yourself to smile; when you by yourself as well as at people around you.
  3. Spend time with positive people.
  4. Look for the good in people.
  5. Practice being kind.

2. Accept It

One of the first steps to being less overwhelmed by anxiety is to accept it. Don’t try to hide that you are battling with anxiety. If you are honest and let people you trust know what you are experiencing, then they can better support you.

While anxiety is the result of fears, it can also be something that you fear. This can make the actual anxiety worse. In mindfulness-based therapy the focus is on the distress experienced through anxiety not the anxiety itself. The psychologist helps the person remain present while they focus on their body’s response and thoughts which arise when they are anxious. Through this non-judgemental awareness the urge to avoid, withdraw or fight anxiety symptoms is decreased. The result of which is that the person feels less overwhelmed and more able to engage with life.

3. Let go of Control

In an attempt to feel less vulnerable and insecure we often try to control situations. Basically, many of these situations are actually out of our control. As we go through life, we often begin to feel bogged down by mounting responsibilities, workloads and conflict. And so, we also get caught up in experiencing and seeing the world around us as confusing and turbulent. By accepting that all of life isn’t controllable, we are more likely to be able to think through and better respond when we in a situation which tends to cause us to be anxious.

4. Get Excited

New research shows that the most effective way of dealing with anxiety is not to fight it but to reframe it. Essentially, when trying to combat anxiety, its more effective to convince yourself that you are excited than to try to tell yourself to be calmer.

“Psychologically, feeling excited and anxious are the same. However, being excited increases our performance.”

A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Professor Alison Wood Brooks, found that psychologically feeling excited is similar to feeling anxious. However, it doesn’t come with any negative side effects. Specifically, getting excited is a positive emotion which improves performance. Whereas anxiety is a negative adverse emotion which harms performance. In an experiment Brooks administered a time-bound maths test to students. As it had a financial incentive it created an additional level of pressure, which increased student’s anxiety levels. Additionally, during the test students either had “Try to Remain Calm” or “Get Excited!” flash across their screens. On average, those who were encouraged to “Get Excited” scored 8% higher than those who were instructed to remain calm.

5. Seek Help

Admitting you’re battling with anxiety isn’t a reflection of failure but a mark of strength. It’s also a way of gaining additional tools, which you can use throughout your life. This can help you to succeed more easily in your career as well as in relationships.

“Anxiety doesn’t have to be debilitating – it can be managed.”

Research has shown that 75% of us who experience high levels of anxiety in our lives. Of this, around 33% of us will feel like we cannot cope with our worry. And therefore, would benefit from talking to a skilled helper. It’s helpful to find a registered counsellor or psychologist through a referral. This could be via your GP or a friend who has found someone to assist them with their anxiety. Alternatively, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) can help you find someone.

Anxiety can be Managed

Anxiety can have a way of becoming all consuming. Whether it takes the form of extreme panic or chronic worry, it can infiltrate every area of life. It’s something that everyone feels at some point in their lives. Thus, finding healthy, adaptive ways of coping can be of great benefit to our physical and mental health. And with the right strategies and support, there is no reason why anxiety should prevent you from enjoying life. Amid all the worry, we can forget one of our most important responsibilities. Our lives are precious and we should be in the driver’s seat, better ensuring that we really enjoy it.

Helping Others with their Anxiety

If you are looking to have a career that helps people with anxiety and depression, then explore the study opportunities at the South African College for Applied Psychology (SACAP). Options range from the comprehensive, 3-year Bachelor of Applied Social Science degrees, to the 1-year (or 2 years part-time) Higher Certificate in Counselling and Communication Skills. Alternatively, SACAP’s Applied Psychology courses will allow you to study towards becoming a registered psychologist. For more information, enquire now.

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