I've Had Anxiety for Years—This Is How I Finally Outsmarted It
Anxiety serves an evolutionary purpose—our ancestors experienced this familiar fight-or-flight reaction when confronting a predator or defending their families. Today our qualms are hardly as life-threatening. I experienced phobia-induced anxiety about thunderstorms as a preteen, and I've experienced generalized anxiety as an adult. We get anxiety when scrolling through our Instagram feeds or walking into a room full of strangers.
But regardless of the validity of your anxiety, it can still feel like an insurmountable obstacle when you're in the thick of it. "A toxic feeling jets through your stomach like a shooting star. You feel sick. And you're not breathing," writes life coach Kirsten Johnson of her own experience with anxiety. "You're reacting to a threat. Not by a ferocious saber-tooth tiger. No, this threat is psychological. It's anxiety. It's actually not even real."
So how can you get out of your own head and see your anxiety for what it is: a fear-based reaction to circumstances not grounded in reality? I've personally had success with a common strategy native to cognitive behavioral therapy called thought challenging, or cognitive reconstructing. Put simply, you pause and identify your anxious thoughts, challenge them with facts, and replace them with more pragmatic thoughts that reflect your reality.
For example, if I had an unfounded anxiety about losing my job, I would pause, consider the facts (the praise I've gotten, my standing with my superiors, my successful projects, etc.), and restructure my negative thoughts into positive ones. Sometimes it even helps to say your anxieties out loud to a trusted friend or professional so that their sheer infeasibility can fully impress upon you. The idea here is to replace fear-based emotions with concrete facts—something your mind can't argue with.
How have you personally overcome anxiety in your life? Share your experience with us below.