Sunday, September 4, 2016

Seeking Balance When Anxiety Strikes


“There are two days in the week about which and upon which I never worry. Two care-free days, kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension. One of these days is Yesterday… And the other… is Tomorrow.” 
~ Robert Jones Burdette

Even as depression has been called the “everyman’s illness,” I would argue that anxiety is even more so. We are all prone to it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the lack of certainty about what will happen in our futures.

Here are a few tips, however, for managing your anxiety.

Recognize your anxiety. Becoming self-aware is the first step in taking positive action to manage your emotional well-being. What are the physical symptoms you experience, such as your pounding heart or perspiration? What thoughts bombard your mind?

Accept your anxiety. Often people fight it and find themselves getting more anxious. They fear the thought of becoming more anxious which increases their level of anxiety. Instead, accept it as a signal to you that your mind perceives a threat to you, whether rational or not. If unacceptable impulses and desires surface, accept their presence, but resist the behavior.

Look past your anxiety. Focus on what you value. How can your values inform you about what you choose to do? Having the vision to see what is important to you right now can help in keeping the anxiety in perspective. Is it your marriage or children? Your work or your health? What brings you meaning and purpose? Do what is necessary in each valued arena of life.

Use reason. Do not allow the anxiety to be your decision maker. The rational mind is far better equipped for this. Evaluate the anxiety with rational questions, such as how likely it is that the feared event will happen. Evaluate fearful thoughts and modify them with healthier, more realistic messages to yourself. Anxiety is often from an irrational imagined threat.

Examine past hurts and anger. When were you wounded in past relationships? Are there areas of unresolved anger? Re-evaluate their connection to your current fears in seeking resolution of them.

Develop assertiveness. Facing our fears and overcoming them through direct assertive (not aggressive) action is often very helpful. This is true particularly where unresolved conflict Is underlying your anxieties. List those areas of conflict in your life and deal with them directly.

Surrender your anxiety. Let it go, as did the ice princess in the movie “Frozen.” Let it go. It will take discipline to maintain that surrender, but trust that you can do it. Let it go.

Learn relaxation techniques. Guided meditations such as relaxation exercises can be found on CD’s or various websites on the internet. Listen to soothing music; meditate on calming art; relax by the lake, campfire, or under the stars. Find what relaxes you, and give yourself permission to take those soothing breaks. Research has shown relaxation can be learned and is helpful for a variety of anxieties. You cannot be both relaxed and anxious at the same time.

Build your faith. Surrendering to your “higher power” is an age-old approach to facing the future, which is where your anxieties seem to be focused. Look at your own faith-tradition for additional guidance in this arena. Courage to face your fears can be found here.

Seek professional help. If your anxiety is severe or prolonged, overcome your fear of telling a stranger what is happening in your life and go to a mental health professional. Anxiety can have many roots that take more time to understand, master, and overcome. Medication should be a safety net of last resort, not the first choice of treatment.

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a New Jersey psychologist at the Lakeview Professional Center, 701 Wiltsey’s Mill Rd., Suite 102. He can be reached at:, or 609-567-9022. This piece was originally produced for the Hammonton Gazette, 2016

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