How To Deal With Anxiety

May 12, 2014

How To Deal With Anxiety

This month at Headspace we’re focusing on how to deal with anxiety. Most of us have suffered from anxiety, or know someone close who has. And while anxiety can be rational and useful – like when we need to make the right decision in a life-threatening situation, the anxiety we’re more familiar with is usually a little less helpful.

The problem with anxiety is that it inhibits our ability to deal with the issue that’s caused it in the first place. It makes our capacity for rational thought dip, while it, itself, begins to spiral out of control. This makes it harder to address the issue and causes genuine misery to ourselves and those around us. 

So what can we do about anxiety?

Finding how to deal with anxiety can sometimes feel like an impossible task. Fortunately, from a meditation or mindfulness point of view, there are a few options to help, either on their own, or together. In fact,meditation for anxiety is proven to have a positive impact.

A bit like steps, we can tackle them all to achieve the greatest results, but even taking one or two can still have a real impact on how we feel. Further tips on how to deal with anxiety are provided below…

Step one 

The Rational Approach – understanding our anxiety

A great place to start on our journey to reduce anxiety is to understand the processes at work. We know that anxiety can feel irrational and illogical, but by approaching it logically, we gain a sense of where it comes from and why it’s hard to stop.

Our individual conditioning determines how anxiety arises in the mind. But forget trying to trace this back – there are too many factors involved. Anxiety is a natural response; we can’t control when it arises (aside from trying to suppress it, which is extremely unhelpful in the long-term) but we can change how we relate to it. And this is the key.

Breaking the cycle

Think about the times when anxiety hits. We resist the feeling with an emotion like frustration, sadness, or ironically, more anxiety. We’ve immediately created a cycle where we believe it’s bad to feel anxious, so we look for a way to get rid of the feeling, and we apply significant energy to try and avoid or eliminate it.

We then make matters worse by noticing the physical sensations that anxiety brings. The mind feels anxious, the chest tightens, and the mind associates this physical feeling as a sign of anxiety, and so becomes more anxious…

It feels like an inescapable pattern, but with practise, we can learn to step out of the loop.

Like any other emotion, anxiety is neither good nor bad. It begins as nothing more than a passing thought. From here, it’s up to us what we choose to do with it, how much importance we give it, and how long we hold onto it for.

Anxiety is a really strong habit, so at first, it won’t feel this simple. But this is the potential. 

The same applies when that starting thought becomes a feeling or sensation. If we think about the sensation and why it’s happening, we exacerbate the situation. But by simply noticing the sensation; being present with it, rather than its connotations, the cycle is interrupted.

Taking this from theory to experience takes practice, but by understanding what’s going on, we can begin to set the mind free.

A word of caution

As thinking got us into this mess, it’s risky to rely on thinking alone to get us out of it. Consider following this method with step two, the Investigative Approach, featured in our next blog.

Andy Puddicombe

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