When I was little, I was known in my family as a "worry wart." My imagination was vast, and I was very creative. Unfortunately this often materialized in unbelievable anxious, intrusive thoughts.
When I was about 7, I would lay awake at night, planning out how I would go through each bedroom to save my family and then escape out the window if there was a fire. If I was ever reprimanded, or scolded, I had a total melt down. I couldn't handle the kids at school who broke the rules. No matter how illogical or inconvenient my fears were, I had to check and make sure they weren't true. It was exhausting for me. It was exhausting and heartbreaking for my parents.
I'm not a little girl anymore. But my anxiety is, in many ways, the same, but along the way I've figured out a few ways on how to stop an anxiety attack.
For anyone who suffers from anxiety, you know that it is a constant battle for control of your brain, and that no matter how good you get at fighting, you must always be vigilant. Because anxiety is a nasty adversary, and it doesn't give up easy.
The scariest thing for me about anxiety is how it takes away your ability to live in reality. Sometimes you can recognize the intrusive thoughts as irrational, but sometimes you can't.
This is why you need to fill your arsenal with tools to keep you grounded in reality before you go to battle against your anxiety. Here are three things that I have learned help me to fight my anxious thoughts, and that I would recommend anyone who suffers from these intrusive thoughts and feelings tries to implement into their lives.
1. Write it down
Writing down my intrusive thoughts is one of the best ways for me to objectively analyze them. Oftentimes, a thought can be making me completely panicked, and as soon as I write it down, it loses all of its power. The thought sounds silly once I read it out loud to myself, and I'm able to close the notebook and move on with my day.
Recording things also helps you to study patterns. If you see that you are always anxious about people getting hurt, you can start to see the ways and reasons why these anxieties come up and begin to control them. Maybe the next time you get this fear, you will be able to recognize it as one of your common anxieties and not let it have so much power over you.
2. Find something bigger to believe in.
Perhaps the most important tool in combatting anxiety is finding a belief system that comforts and challenges you. When you find faith in a larger power, you are able to take comfort in serving a bigger purpose, and being able to trust that things are happening for a reason. You are able to loosen the reigns a bit, and not feel so scared about what will happen in the future.
A lot of anxiety comes from our deepest fears of loss, death, and failure. Finding the right faith system can help you to grapple with these human fears and figure out a way to find peace with being a human being, with all the chaos and uncertainty that that entails.
When I found a faith system that worked for me, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It gave organization, reassurance, and purpose to my life, and it was one of the best things to help me ignore those anxious thoughts.
3. Practice Gratitude.
Another one of the best ways I learned to combat my anxiety was by practicing gratitude. Again, often using a notebook, I would brainstorm all of the things that I am grateful for. This shift in perspective made it a lot harder to be anxious, because my brain was being taught to look at all that was going right, instead of the things that were (or could) go wrong.
I think gratitude is one of our best tools for fighting anxiety. Lots of my anxious thoughts came from the feeling that things were so fragile and fleeting, and that I never really knew what to hold on to. Being grateful for things in the moment and not worrying so much about what was going to last forever (because nothing does) was such a healthy switch in my mindset. It also made me a happier, more joyful person to be around.
Fighting anxiety is about making conscious decisions about how you are going to think about the world around you. You have the power to change your thoughts and change your relationship with the stressors in your life.
Of course some anxiety needs more serious care than these self-fixes. If your anxiety is preventing you from leaving your house, interacting socially, or working productively, you may want to talk to your doctor about alternative therapies or medications.