According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, over 40 million people in the United States suffer from and anxiety related disorder, which means an overwhelming 20% of the population is dealing with anxiety.
Anxiety Disorders can be classified as any of the following
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Specific Phobias
In addition to the 20%, there are thousands of people who struggle with worry and fear daily even though they may not fit into the diagnosis. Anxiety is an addiction to negative thinking about the past or future. It’s amazing that in the Bible “fear not” is listed 365 times. It seems like God knew the intense struggle we were going to have with fear. What can we do to minimize fear and anxiety from our life? Here are some tips.
Internal messages journal
Have an internal messages journal where you write down the internal messages you give yourself each day. On one side of the paper, journal the actual fear/worry you had, for example—“Man, I’m a failure, I’ll never pass that test to get into graduate school.” Then on the left side of the paper re-frame the thought to make it a more realistic and positive thought, “I failed this one test. It is a lesson learned. I need to study harder next time. I know I can do well on this test!”
We carry a lot of thoughts with us that are based in fear and negativity, not truth. Challenge your automatic thoughts and make them more realistic and positive. Sometimes people do not know they carry such negative thoughts with them everyday; a journal is a great way to develop awareness into your thoughts. Awareness is the first step in change.
Observe your anxiety
When you do feel anxiety, see if you can observe it without trying to stop it. Write down what’s happening to you including your feelings and the sensations in your body. Is your back tense or are your fists clenched?
Practice deep breathing
Practice deep breathing exercises for about 5–10 minutes in the morning and nighttime; don’t worry about doing it “right,” just try it. If you have trouble getting to sleep, develop a sleeping routine starting about 30 minutes before you go to bed such as taking a bath, listening to calm music, or sipping on sleepy time tea. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Ask for support
Ask for support from a friend you trust or a counselor. Sometimes sharing your experience instead of hiding it can be helpful. Fear prevents us from living courageously. We all have so many dreams, skills, passions, and goals—yet our fears stop us in our tracks from taking the necessary steps to achieve our goals. I once heard a great saying on courage that is noteworthy.
“Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is taking the next step forward in the midst of fear.”