Coping with anxiety

30 August 2019
Author   Leonore Tjikune
We all have those moments of doubt, fear or a sense of uneasiness when it comes to dealing with certain situations or being exposed to ‘uncomfortable’ scenarios. In my opinion, there isn’t only one way to tackle anxiety that works for every individual.  Each of us must find what works best for us.
I think everyone goes through some aspect of anxiety on varying levels – it is very human. The issue is how you manage it.  I’m sure we’ve all experienced it.  Life and people are not easy to deal with.
 According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is defined as "an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure." Or in my case, increased heart rate along with shaking hands and knees. Other signs of anxiety can include excessive worrying, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability and tense muscles.
I developed anxiety challenges after finishing high school. I went through a terrible break up with a boyfriend and then moved to a different country to escape what I could not deal with back home.  From being a person who did not fear big crowds and talking to a large audience to now barely being able to properly express myself before any audience, anxiety took its toll on me.
People are constantly coming up with tips and tricks for dealing with anxiety.  Some of these ‘cures’ work; some don’t.  The way I cope with anxiety depends on the severity of the situation which provoked the outbreak in the first place.
For example, when I need to give a presentation in front of a large group, my first thought becomes, ‘don’t screw up, don’t forget the words and don’t fall on your face!’  Eventually, all the over-thinking diminishes my chances of delivering a great presentation.  What has changed now is that when I am in that particular situation, even though I have not squashed my inner anxiety attacks, I force myself to practice the main points I want to make in my presentation and I remind myself that I am going to be OK. I affirm myself by saying, “it will go well; you’ll do great, and you are awesome!”  It sounds a bit cliché, but it works for me.
If you have negative thoughts, you attract negative results. Conversely, if you have positive thoughts, you beget positive results. Try it, you will be surprised by the power of your mind.
Another anxiety-provoking scenario which is more severe mainly occurs when I am in uncomfortable interactions with people.
For example, when I think I am doing well, but others may take what I have done the wrong way, I have anxiety attacks.   They emotionally confront me with their misunderstanding of my point. Then, I am compelled to explain myself, calm their ire and make my original point again. My knees shake, my palms sweat and my stomach butterflies nearly bowl me over in these situations.
It is a fact that not every person will be receptive to you. Some people can also just be stuck in their ways, or there could be differences in upbringing, religion, education, beliefs or simply, personalities that make mutual understanding difficult. This makes me anxious.
I detest an unexpected confrontation. I get uneasy in situations where my patience and sense of self is constantly tested, or when I did nothing ‘wrong’ or didn’t mean to cause offense, but it becomes the source of confrontation.
What do you do in any situation where emotions run high, voices get louder, words get exchanged, and you can feel rage creeping up from within? Your fingers start shaking, your heart beats faster, tears start falling, and you can’t seem to catch a breath? It’s a difficult situation to deal with. I still don’t know the best way to handle it – but I know that anxiety is a barrier to personal growth.
I have learned that sometimes at the height of conflict, it is better to hold your tongue rather than speak your mind automatically.  There are times when it is better to let go and forgive.  Unfortunately, there will always be some person that does not ‘like’ you or sees you as a ‘bad’ person.   We all need to let those situations go.
Two people who clash might just be different as individuals and there is nothing wrong with that; it could be quite normal.  If you waste time, raising your blood pressure as you try to ‘change them’ to think your way (which is a fool’s errand), you could end up going into a deeper state of anxiety that can negatively affect everything in your life.
Anxiety might always be there, but don’t despair, rather stay calm, find peace within yourself and attract positive thoughts.
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