In Chapter 11 of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, I share these seven steps to control your anxiety:
1. Notice your body and emotions (a.k.a. self-awareness).
2. Breathe deeply.
3. Control what you can control.
4. Surrender to what you can’t control.
5. Talk to yourself in a positive manner.
6. Do something life-giving in the moment.
7. Repeat all of the above if necessary.
If you suffer from bouts of anxiety on a regular basis, I encourage you to copy this list onto a small piece of paper, or save it on your phone, and carry it with you. The next time you find yourself succumbing to anxious thoughts, getting frustrated by life’s circumstances, or losing your cool because of a relationship in conflict, pull this list out, read it, and follow it.
Some of the steps are straightforward. Others need a little clarification.
When I say, “Control what you can control,” that essentially means control yourself. Take responsibility for what you can in the moment: your reactions, your emotions, your ability to enact healthy change in any situation.
For me, “Surrender to what you can’t control” encourages me to say, out loud, all the things about a situation that are outside of my control. When I say them, I release them from my mind and find myself less anxious about them. After all, what can I really do about those issues?
Lastly, “Do something life-giving” means doing almost anything that energizes you. Listen to music. Pray. Vent to a trusted friend. Used in moderation, these healthy coping mechanisms can bring your anxiety down.
And if that doesn’t work, start at the top of the list again.
By daily practicing the suggestions on this list, you should be able to decrease your anxiety levels on a consistent basis.