How to Control Your Anxiety (and Stop Adding to Your Own Misery)

Anxiety affects so many people, many of whom opt to take medication as their primary treatment. Craig Nielson at YourTango, however, believes that there are alternative solutions, such as understanding what causes anxiety and how to use that knowledge to calm your mind.

POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio

How to stop feeling like a victim of your own reactions.

Anxiety is estimated to affect thirty percent of US population with twice as many women than men suffering from general anxiety. To combat the symptoms of anxiety, many are resorting to medication to feel better believing their symptoms are how they're hardwired.

I believe there is power in education and gaining an understanding of what causes anxiety can give you an alternative solution, granting you the knowledge to take control and create for yourself a calm and confident mind, body and spirit.

For starters, understand the difference between fear and anxiety. Both inflict the same physical response of feeling panic, a racing mind, accelerated heart rate and rapid breathing. They both put us in a mental state commonly referred to as "fight or flight" and are activated by the subconscious mind.

Fear is a natural response to a legitimate threat.

I'm an avid hiker and fear serves me well, especially if I encounter a rattlesnake along the trail. Without consciously thinking about it, my subconscious activates fear in me as it recognizes the threat and activates the senses in my body to respond to danger in the fight or flight mode.

My conscious mind then kicks in to assess the threat and my next move. In this instance, I choose flight. I don't run away in a panic, but I cautiously remove myself from the presence of the snake and let it know I pose no threat to it so it will also retreat.

Anxiety occurs when I imagine a threat. I'm a public speaker. Early on when I first started out, before I got up to speak, I had terrible anxiety as I had thoughts that I was going to suck, that my audience wouldn't like me, I was unprepared, they'll think I'm a fraud.

The same physical response occurred: my heart rate increased, my throat became constricted, and I was feeling like I just wanted to run away. All this response was created by my imagination of how things would go wrong. I couldn't prove any of it. There was no truth in it, yet my physical response was activated by my subconscious as though it were true.

It's also important to understand how powerful our subconscious mind is. Unlike our conscious mind, the subconscious never sleeps. It works constantly our entire lives as it keeps our heart pumping and our lungs breathing without us even thinking about it. It triggers our fear response when we are confronted with danger. Therefore the subconscious mind seems to be more powerful than our conscious mind.

However, the subconscious mind has one major flaw: It cannot distinguish between a legitimate threat and an imaginary one. It triggers the body to respond the same.

It's the subconscious mind that powers nightmares when you're asleep. You wake up from a nightmare with your heart rate accelerated and possibly sweating. There is absolutely nothing real in a nightmare, but consider how powerfully it affects you physically.

Now, the subconscious mind does give us some benefits when we are awake as well. For instance, it allows us to get emotionally involved in a movie and experience fear, excitement and sadness even though consciously we can tell ourselves what were are watching is simply people acting out a script with a film crew around them.

But even that doesn't shut down our emotional experience. Why? Because the subconscious mind is always at work responding to the stimulus it's being fed. It's always at work feeding off of everything, whether it's feeding on a visual stimulus or an imagined one.

Our thoughts and words are powerful. Thoughts trigger feelings that determine our actions. For instance, if you have a habit of comparing yourself to others, your subconscious picks up on thoughts of inferiority and causes you to feel depressed and insecure.

If you happen to be single and you're wondering why by thinking "What is wrong with me?", on a subconscious level, you actually believe there is something wrong with you. Otherwise, you wouldn't ask the question.

Words are powerful. You believe everything you tell yourself. Therefore, to begin retaining your brain to combat anxiety, first become aware of what imaginary threats you are feeding into our subconscious.

Learning how to control anxiety takes practice. By consistently applying intervention between thought and subsequent feelings, you can train your subconscious to buy into a more positive, calming and empowering belief of who you are and what your situation is. Replace your defeating thought patterns with powerful affirmations.

Meditation is also very effective. While you meditate, imagine yourself in the most positive light. Create in your mind the ideal image of yourself. The subconscious likes consistency and the more you can fill it with images of you at your best, the more it will buy into the positive powerful person you truly are.

Always be mindful of what you tell yourself. The words "I am" are the two most powerful words in the universe, for whatever follows those two words is your truth. You can begin your meditation with: "I am always, and in all ways, greater than I think."

If you continue to struggle to gain control over your anxiety, consider investing in professional help. Just like many who plan to exercise to get in shape then find they get better results by hiring a personal trainer, the same applies to personal development. Don't be scared.

Craig Nielson is a Professional Coach, Speaker, and Educator who specializes in helping women transform their lives into becoming fully empowered and self-confident. Learn more and get your free eBook: How Women Unknowingly Sabotage Their Self-Confidence and How to Get It Back.

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