Everyone experiences anxiety at times. Anxiety can often surface when you face challenges, pressure to do well, or when you’ve got a worry on your mind.
Anxiety turns on your body’s stress response (often called fight, flight, or freeze). This instant surge of stress hormones is intended to be a survival response. It prepares you to react quickly and protect yourself if you need to. If you’re scared or not sure if you’re safe, anxiety prompts you to be cautious.
However, many people feel anxious in situations that are stressful to them without being dangerous. For example, you may feel anxious about taking tests, meeting new people, or even speaking in class.
If you feel anxious in situations like these, you don’t have to feel alone. But it’s best to learn how to cope. Otherwise, anxiety can hold you back or cause you to avoid the things you’d like to do.
Instead of avoiding things that prompt anxiety, facing them is better. You may be surprised by what you can do. Here are five things that can help you through your anxious moments:
Form a growth mindset
Some people have a fixed mindset. They might think: “This is how I am. I’m just too anxious to speak in class, so I won’t raise my hand.” With a fixed mindset like that, people don’t think that change is possible. They think there is nothing they can do about it.
But, the science of the brain has shown that you can teach your brain new ways to respond to stressful situations. Your brain knows it can get better at just about everything with the right amount of effort. And that includes anxiety
Growth mindset refers to a manner of thinking that sees opportunities for personal growth and improvement. This requires setting goals and small challenges to change the way you think.
When you feel anxious, taking a few slow breaths is important. Breathe in slowly and be sure to breathe out all the way. You can use your fingers to count four or five breaths, in and out, and repeat. Taking slow breaths can slow the release of stress hormones. It can help your body and mind feel more at ease. As you guide your attention to your breath, you can pay less attention to those anxious thoughts and feelings. Breathing in this way can help you feel steady and less anxious.
Meditation is a practice shaped by letting go and allowing yourself to feel inner peace. Because the mind tends to wander where it will, many of us find it easier to focus and relax when we aren’t left to our own devices. Because of this, many benefit from guided meditation, where someone else helps to guide you through the process.
Spiritual wellness, for many, is a key element in eliminating stress and anxiety. Spiritual wellness, also known as spiritual well-being, refers to a person’s sense of life meaning, and purpose. It can include our connection to culture, community, spirituality, and/or religion. It can be beneficial to find guidance through your spiritual practice, with many resources being more accessible than ever.
Here are some potential mentors you can consider if you need help finding spirituality and peace:
- John de Ruiter is a Canadian spiritual leader and author who conducts meetings in Edmonton, Alberta, and abroad. He operates a centre called the College of Integrated Philosophy and also produces a podcast.
- Tara Brach, Ph.D, is an internationally acclaimed meditation teacher and author of the bestselling books Radical Acceptance and True Refuge. Tara shares weekly guided meditation that blend both Western psychology and Eastern Spiritual Practices.
- Eckhart Tolle: Eckhart is a spiritual teacher and author. When he was 29, a profound inner transformation radically changed the course of his life. The next few years were devoted to understanding, integrating, and developing that transformation. At the core of his teachings, there is a transformation of consciousness, a spiritual awakening, and taking the next steps in spiritual evolution
Face the situation — don’t wait for anxiety to go away
You might think that you’ll put off speaking in class or talking to a new person until you no longer have anxiety about the situation. But it doesn’t work that way. It’s facing the anxiety that helps you grow past it
Learning to cope with anxiety will take a lot of time and patience. Most of all, it takes being willing to face situations that spark anxiety. Start with one small step. The more you work on it, the better you’ll get at lowering anxiety.