When you’re dealing with stress and anxiety, especially over an extended period of time, you get to a point when you just want to get rid of it or make it go away as quickly as possible.
So you do what you can to get some relief: you might find yourself avoiding certain people or situations to avoid feeling stressed or anxious, or trying to escape from the feelings by distracting yourself, by bingeing on TV shows, keeping busy, burying yourself in work, or taking the edge off with alcohol or any other relaxing activity you can engage in.
Some of these strategies may even help for a while, but the problem is that the stress and anxiety keeps coming back.
Getting rid of stress and anxiety completely is just not that easy...
And have you ever noticed that the more you focus on getting rid of your anxiety or not feeling stressed, the more stressed and anxious you become? That’s because when you focus on what you don’t want, the thing that you don’t want becomes more noticeable and it can become amplified.
So when you focus on not wanting to feel stressed, you end up paying more attention to just how stressed and anxious you are, and then you feel frustrated and even more stressed and anxious about feeling that way.
And the truth is, you can’t totally get rid of stress and anxiety.
Experiencing stress and anxiety is a normal part of the human experience. Stress is a response to demands being placed on you or to feeling vulnerable in some way, while anxiety is the worry and fear that comes up in response to stress.
In fact, some stress and anxiety can be good for you in small amounts. Stress and anxiety can be motivating – it can help push you to get things done or to do a good job - or it can be a warning signal letting you know that you need to do something different.
It’s when stress and anxiety build up or continue for a prolonged period of time that it can harm your mental health and well-being.
The key is to recognize your stress and anxiety as early as possible, before it builds up to an overwhelming state, and accept it:
Accept that it is there, without judging it as a bad thing or judging yourself for experiencing it.
Then, rather than focusing on getting rid of your anxiety, focus on what you do want - becoming more calm, relaxed, secure, steady, confident, etc.
From there you can take the steps you need to feel better and feel better about yourself. This can include:
Learning new coping strategies or finding new ways to relax and unwind
Shifting your thinking to be more affirming, positive, and realistic, rather than fearful and catastrophic
Keeping things in perspective and practicing gratitude and patience
Devoting time to doing things that you truly enjoy, and things that you find meaningful or that are in line with your values and what’s most important to you.
Simplifying your life, wherever possible, so that you can take time to observe and appreciate the little things, and be more present and engaged.
Staying connected with others– community, family, friends – especially those people who are supportive.
Having a sense of humor. Being able to laugh, appreciate the absurd, see the silliness, and not take everything so seriously can help release tension, broaden your perspective, and bring some necessary lightness and joy into your life.
Developing a solid connection with yourself. This means getting familiar with and understanding your needs, wants, dreams, desires, and interests and keeping track of how they evolve over time. This helps you understand how to live your life in a way that is best and most fulfilling for you.
And last but certainly not least, practicing self-compassion or offering yourself kindness, understanding, and care. Remind yourself that stress and anxiety shows up for a reason, try to understand it - what is it telling you? Do you need to slow down, speed things up, change courses, ask for help? Also, know that you’re not alone and there’s nothing wrong with you. Everyone experiences stress and anxiety, and even though it is exhausting and overwhelming, you can learn how to handle it.
Of course, each of these strategies is easier said than done, but with time, effort, and commitment you can see results. You can experience less stress and anxiety and more confidence and peace of mind. You can find relief, improve your relationships, and start to live life more fully, with more joy and satisfaction.