For the longest time, anxiety was something that I had to face alone as I was terrified of talking to anyone about the battle going on inside my head.
Each day, a paralyzing fear took control of my thoughts as I started believing that I’d have to deal with anxiety for the rest of my life. But during a walk along the river, I heard the following quote from Epictetus, which helped me to rid negative thoughts from my mind:
“Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.”
I’ve discovered that it’s pointless worrying about events that you have no control over. So a better solution is understanding the reasons behind your anxiety, so you can prevent it from affecting your thoughts in the future.
Below are several questions that have helped me to overcome my anxiety. Each one of them helped me to understand why it occurred, and I hope they do the same for you, too.
Do I Have Control Over The Situation?
When you understand the triggers behind your anxiety, it becomes a lot easier to stop letting it control your thoughts. In the words of Marcus Aurelius: “You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
For several years, I let social anxiety define my personality and prevent me from becoming the person that I wanted to be. But when I began understanding the reasons behind my fear, it was much easier to control the negative thoughts inside my head.
It’s important to remember that being judged doesn’t represent who you are as a person. Instead, it defines the other person as pessimistic due to their wish to put others down to feel better about their situation.
This new change in perspective helped to change my life.
Take a moment to understand the reasons behind your anxiety and try to gain a new perspective on the situation. Because although your fear of judgment won’t disappear overnight, you’ll notice that you become more empathetic to the opinions of other people.
Are My Fears Based In Reality?
If anxiety is plunging your mental health into a cycle of fear & uncertainty, it’s easy to let your emotions spiral out of control. For example, you might be thinking about the worst-case scenario, without considering the low probability of such an event happening.
I understand how you feel. I know what it’s like to spend each night laying in bed, looking up the ceiling in a state of panic, as your mind goes into a perpetual state of overdrive.
It sucks. But I’ve found that when you ground yourself in reality and think about the events that are likely to happen, it becomes easier to feel less worried about the future.
Whenever I went to social gatherings, I created stories in my head about the future, and what people would think of me during a conversation. I was afraid that I would screw up, look like an idiot, and have zero chance of making any new friends because the entire crowd would laugh at me.
But when I began asking if my fear was based in reality, I was able to stop & think about my entire thought process.
See, I was making assumptions about the future and imagining what people would think of me before I’d even met them. But when the event happened, I had absolutely nothing to worry about.
So whenever you find yourself feeling anxious about the future, try to ground yourself in reality so that your fears don’t spiral out of control. In the words of Seneca: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”
What Can I Do To Cope With These Emotions?
One of the habits that’s changed my life is daily journaling. Every single day, I’ll write a few paragraphs in my notebook describing my emotional state, and what I can do to cope with any feelings of anxiety.
I’ve found that when you write about your anxiety, it’s no longer trapped in your head as you’ve released it onto a page. So instead of feeling stressed or confused, you’ll get a sense of clarity, which will prevent negative thoughts from entering your mind in the future.
Although journaling may only take a few minutes each day, I’ve discovered that it has a massive impact on your mental health.
Have I Been Eating Healthily?
Research shows that having a balanced diet can help to ease symptoms of anxiety. After all, consuming excessive amounts of sugar can reduce your body’s ability to respond to stress. Quoting an article from Harvard Medical School:
“Avoiding processed foods and foods high in sugar means the body experiences fewer highs and lows of blood sugar, which helps to reduce feelings of anxiety further. Very simply put, a sugar rush can mimic a panic attack.”
When you begin eating less sugar throughout the day, you’ll notice that it’s much easier to manage any feelings of anxiety that you may experience. So eating a balanced diet & drinking plenty of water is undoubtedly an excellent place to start.
Overcoming anxiety begins by getting clarity on your thoughts, understanding your emotions, and letting go of external events that you cannot control. In the words of Epictetus:
“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not.”
So every day, ask yourself: “What actions can I take right now to understand my anxiety so I can eliminate the negative thoughts from my mind?”
That’s all you need to do.