Most bits of advice out there for how to be less anxious share one fatal flaw…
They alleviate anxiety in the short-term, but increase it in the long-term.
- Distraction will help you feel less anxious in the moment, but by immediately avoiding it, you’re teaching your brain that it’s a threat—which means you’ll be anxious about being anxious next time.
- Deep breathing can be useful as an exercise, but when used as a tool to alleviate anxiety in the moment, it teaches your brain that it’s not okay to feel anxious, which can lead to feeling ashamed about feeling anxious—which only makes your anxiety more intense long-term.
If you struggle with chronic anxiety and want to feel less anxious for good, try these instead:
- Stop calling yourself an anxious person. How we think determines how we feel. And how we repeatedly think determines how we consistently feel. If you’re constantly labeling yourself as “an anxious person” or “a worrier” is it any wonder that you constantly feel that way? How you talk to yourself is a choice. Take responsibility for using kinder, more balanced self-talk.
- Ask for what you really want. If you struggle with chronic anxiety, there’s a good chance you’ve fallen into the following habit: You avoid asking people for what you really want. Maybe you’re afraid of how they’ll react… Maybe you’re afraid to admit to yourself what you really want… Regardless, chronic anxiety will not go away until you learn to be more assertive.
- Don’t get into conversations with your worries. Everybody worries. But just because you have a worry doesn’t mean you have to keep worrying. Practice saying no to unhelpful conversations with yourself by training your mind to observe without engaging.
- Less coping, more tolerance. When you immediately try to avoid or get rid of anxiety with coping skills, you make yourself more anxious in the long-run because you’ve trained your brain to fear anxiety itself. Instead, practice accepting your anxiety and being tolerant of it. To free yourself from anxiety, you must be willing to have it.
- Say no a lot more. Very often, chronic anxiety is a symptom of poor boundaries. And unless you address the root cause, you can expect your anxiety to keep popping up—not because something’s wrong, but because something’s right… your anxiety is sending you a message you desperately need to hear.
- Exercise more frequently. There are approximately 3,457 reasons why exercise is good, including for anxiety. But here’s one most people don’t realize: Exercise boosts your sleep drive, which leads to higher quality sleep. And when you consistently sleep well, it’s much easier to manage worry and anxiety in a healthy way.
- Stop looking for meaning in everything. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. But if you’re in the habit of always avoiding it by insisting that “everything means something,” you will become increasingly fearful of even small bits of uncertainty. And because life is full of uncertainty, you will become full of anxiety. Practice accepting uncertainty instead of always trying to control it.