how to overcome anxiety
We worry about things we can control, things we cannot control, things that have happened, things we think might happen, things we would like to happen and everything in between. We feel as only if we worry enough, the scary thing might never happen.
In this process, we create our own, scary parallel universes and we spend a vast amount of times in there. In the meantime, life goes on, opportunities, ideas, and people pass us by. Our anxiety makes us myopic and stuck in old ways of thinking. Here’s the thing, though. We are all endlessly creative. You can misuse your creativity or not create at all, but you cannot diminish your inherent creative ability and potential. Also, you can only focus on one line of thinking at the time: you can either create or misuse the creativity, but you cannot do both at the same time.
This leads to a simple conclusion: when we worry, our creativity is already used up to create projections and scary universes. We have nothing left for creative solutions.If we can then redirect our creativity, we can do something more productive. Find new ideas, solutions, and stop worrying so much.
Below are 10 ideas and exercises on how to redirect your creativity from misuse (worry) to productive use (beat anxiety and get new ideas). Use it as your creative, anxiety dissolving toolkit. Different ideas will resonate at different times and for different issues.
Let’s get started.
1. Write the worst case scenario
Let’s exaggerate. What is the worst possible outcome? If everything goes completely wrong and terrible, what will exactly happen? How will the rock-bottom look like? What will you do then? Use your creativity and paint it black.
There are a few benefits to this practice.
If you write a really good worst case scenario, you can sell it to Woody Allen as the idea for his next movie. 🙂
Then, most of the worst case scenarios are not even that scary. Say you have a problem with your car. What’s the worst case scenario? You’ll take it to the shop, they’ll figure out what is wrong, get back to you with feedback and pricing. The worst case scenario is that you don’t have enough money to pay to fix the car, in which case you will have to wait a bit and rely on friends, bicycle and public transportation, which many people do every day. Very often we are anxious because our current situation doesn’t look like the way we think it should. But when we really see what is the absolute worst outcome, it is often not as horrendous as we project.
Additionally, most of the worst case scenarios are unlikely to happen. You would probably have to NOT take any action in a really long time to allow for the worst case scenario to unravel fully. You will have to let things get super bad and the situation to become practically unsolvable. Are you really gonna sit and watch your life falling apart? I don’t think so. You will call someone. You will think of some solutions. You will figure it out.
As Danielle Laporte says: “Worst case scenarios are liberating.”
In order to feel liberated, though, you need to write your worst case scenario down.
- What is making you anxious right now?
- What is the worst possible outcome of that situation? Be as creative and specific as possible. Include numerous juicy details.
- How would the worst possible outcome affect you?
- How will you feel?
- What would you have to do? Would you be able to survive?
- What can you do to help the worst possible outcome develop as quickly as possible? (Hint: don’t do that!)
- How likely is the worst possible outcome?
- Is there still a chance that things won’t go as bad?
- How do you feel after this exercise?
2. Write the best case scenario
We, human beings, tend to be oriented towards negative. I have cited James Altucher’s idea many times:
“When faced with a lion and an apple tree, a human being will notice… a lion.”
That’s how our brain is wired, that is how we survived for thousands of years. Nowadays still, most of us have a superpower of observing a situation and defining exactly why it sucks within 2 seconds. We are masters in pointing to flaws in everyone and everything. But when we only see the worst, we become anxious and paralyzed.
Instead of explaining why the situation is bad and how it will get worse, try another approach. Write the best case scenario. This will help you see things differently and come up with creative solutions.
If your job sucks, I bet you can rant for hours about why it is so. But what kind of job do you want instead? What is your best case career scenario? Maybe your place is a mess, but how would it look like at its best? Maybe you do not want the present state of affairs, but what do you want instead?Define.
It is easy to criticize and define what you do not want. Unfortunately, focusing on what you hate will only bring more of that. Best case scenario will open your mind to the new possibilities and new actions. You will know where to focus and the anxiety will dissolve.
What is making you anxious right now?
What is really annoying about that situation? (Here allow yourself to bitch and vent.)
- how would this situation have to be different for you to feel good about it?
- What would have to change?
- What would have to be true?
- What do you actually want? (At this point, don’t stress about how hard it’s going to be to change this situation into something better, focus only on what you DO want.)
What are the specific actions you can do to bring the current situation little closer to the best case scenario? Name at least 3.
Can you do one specific action today?
How do you feel after this exercise?
3. Help someone else
Here’s a bit counter-intuitive, but powerful rule: you have to give others that what you want for yourself. If you want to be happy, make other people happy. If you want to feel supported, support someone. You have to give what you want to receive.
Anxiety will make us feel miserable, lost, confused, frustrated, overwhelmed and often HELPLESS. It will suck our power and make us believe that our efforts cannot produce any difference. But here’s the trick. When you feel helpless, help someone else. Outwit your anxiety. It will tell you that you have no power, but you can prove it wrong. You are powerful and smart.
In fact, you have enough resources and abilities that you can afford to give to others. It doesn’t have to be anything radical. You can wash the dishes for your roommate. Proofread your colleague’s report. Make tea for your boyfriend/Girlfriend. Do the groceries for your parents. Donate $5 to Wikipedia or Khan Academy or whomever else you want.
Possibilities are endless but one thing is certain: helping someone will make you feel useful and powerful. Before you know it, you will pull yourself out of the anxious spiral.
- List 5 people or organizations whom you could help today.
- List 5 ways in which you could help them.Can you help at least one person/ organization today? (Of course, you can.)If you do it (which I hope you will), answer the questions.
- How did it feel to help someone?
- How did the act of helping impact the anxiety?
4. Use the mantra: “Nothing bad is happening”.
Or “ALL IS WELL” Thanks to 3 IDIOTS MOVIE 😉
The very thing that bugs you, drives you nuts and makes you anxious doesn’t have to be bad. Yes, it might be annoying, weird, uncomfortable, discordant with your plans, completely new, but certainly not BAD.
This mantra will help you identify the emotions more accurately and see the situation differently. The staple of stoicism is the idea that situations are neither good or bad, but out thinking makes them so.
When we train ourselves to re-frame our experiences, all of a sudden we become able to see the hidden gifts in what we consider undesirable. In “Obstacle is the Way” how every time when we encounter the obstacle or hardship, we are actually called to practice our virtues: patience, diligence, compassion, endurance, flexibility, acceptance. Nothing bad is happening. You are only challenged in a different way.
What is happening in your life right now that is causing you anxiety?
Write “ALL IS WELL” 5 times. (Really just Try it)
So if nothing bad is happening, what is happening? Something scary? Something new? Something unexpected? Something uncomfortable? Something challenging?
What virtues are you called to practice in this situation?
How do you feel after doing this exercise?
I know for sure, when I am not doing what I should be doing, I feel anxious. 100% of the time. When I know I have homework, report, experiment, a new post to tackle and I start to procrastinate, a wave of anxiety overwhelms me. When I know I should be doing something important, and I hop on Facebook instead, I can be pretty sure that I’ll quickly become unsettled, nervous and terrible to be around. Anxiety is often an alarm from our subconsciousness, which reminds us: “You are not working on what you should be working on.”
Presently when we know it, there is no time giving ourselves hard time. It’s the ideal opportunity for activity. One little, centered, insight fully guided activity can possibly break down our uneasiness in a matter of moments. When we’re on edge we’re in our minds. When we make a move, we possess no energy for that.
In “Return to Love” Marianne Williamson mentions how people often tell her that they are so worried about the hunger in the world, injustice, wars and other problems. “What are you doing about it? Did you donate money to help these causes? Did you help people in your neighborhood?” Marianne would ask them.
Your worry is not productive. Your action is. In the words of Joan Baez: “Action is an antidote to despair.”
- What is making you anxious right now?
- What are you avoiding to do?
- What are you procrastinating on?
- What are you only worrying about, but taking no action?
- What can you do about the situation within the next hour? List 3–5 specific things.
No more questions. Do it. Be quick and focused.
How do you feel now? How has taking action influenced your anxiety?
6. Choose higher thoughts
We’ve spent so many years on this planet, we’ve been in school, college, we’ve worked, we’ve traveled, but we still never learned how to think well. Yes, Most of us wake up in the morning with an avalanche of uncontrollable, frantic thoughts, and we spend the rest of our days letting these thoughts distract us, make us unhappy, tell us what to do. We react to our thoughts. Our crazy minds are our masters. No wonder we feel anxious, helpless and powerless.
In any case, fortunately we can intentionally change our considerations. We can stop the insane train of considerations, pause and grasp a pristine arrangement of musings. Musings that improve us feel. Incredible Thoughts. Higher thoughts. Everything necessary is a touch of care and inventiveness. It is a training.
Our thoughts follow each other. You have one though. Then another one. Then another one. What is between the two thoughts? A tiny gap. A pause. We calls this gap a field of infinite possibilities because an infinite number of potential new thoughts can pop up after the gap.
However, despite infinite possibilities, the thoughts that will pop up are the thoughts that we are thinking frequently. Our minds are economical machines. They don’t want to think and create too much. Our minds like to use what they have. They recycle the old, familiar (and most often negative) thoughts. This exercise will reverse the inertia of our minds.
Isolate a thought that makes you anxious. (For example: “I don’t have time to finish this report.”)
Which thought (or a couple of thoughts) naturally come after that? It is important to remember that a single thought rarely makes us anxious. A crazy train of follow-up thoughts does. (For the example from above, it could be: “It’s my fault that I ran out of time. I never get the help that I need but my boss still expects me to finish everything on my own. This sucks. I will not be able to get enough sleep tonight.”)
Pause for a moment. How do you feel after the train of anxious thoughts?
Presently, tell your mind that you don’t care for the course your thoughts are going to and that you need to pick higher considerations. Think of 3 higher, progressively hopeful and incredible thoughts that can pursue the underlying one. (Precedent: “Let me consider the amount I have done and the amount I have left, so I can improve an arrangement.” Or: “I can request that somebody help me.” Or: “Let me turn off my telephone and center like insane for 30 minutes.” Or: “Let me make an essential form that can be submitted and I can include later.”)
- How do these new thoughts feel?
- Were you able to come up with some creative, useful solutions?
7. Make peace with your demons
Inside of your mind lives someone who always talks(You Know What i Mean Right?). There is a persistent, neurotic, mostly negative voice in your head that interprets the reality for you, tells you what to do and judges everyone and everything for you. Some call it gremlin. Or your inner roommate. Demon. Radio station KFKD (hail to Anne Lamott). Whatever we call it, I think you know well what we’re talking about. The worst person ever that inhabits your mental space, nags, gossips and tells you how much you suck. When you are anxious, it is usually the case that this inner roommate made you anxious with its endless chatter and negative projections.
The first thing to do is to step aside. In “Untethered Soul” Michael Singer says that when you feel disturbed, the best question to ask is not: “What should I do?”, but rather “Who am I that notices this?”. Let’s put it this way. In your head, there is a person (a gremlin) that makes drama. But drama would have no effect if there was no one listening and believing. And that is YOU. Your consciousness. The real you. In any moment you can claim your power back. You can choose not to buy into your inner roommate’s chatter.
There are many ways to do that (some of which are contained in questions below). I thought about this problem for many years and came up with several creative solutions. But the way suggested by Liz Gilbert really struck a cord for me. She said that “the best outcome of her painful period of divorce was making peace with her inner roommate“. They were in a war for years and when things got really bad, Liz asked her inner roommate to make a peace.
“We’re not going to operate against each other anymore… We have to put down the weapons. We have to put down the old complaints. We have to put down the perfectionism. We have to put down the judgement. We have to put this stuff away because we’re doing such tremendous harm to this poor being, Liz, who has to carry this war around within her,” said Gilbert in her interview for On Being. Isn’t that powerful? We can outwit the inner voice, we can play games with it, yell at it, and so on. But eventually, we have to create (and recreate) peace. That’s a sustainable way to live.
What is your inner roommate saying about the situation? Why is he/she anxious?
- Ask him/her what is she trying to protect you from.
- Ask him/her what is her biggest fear for you.
- Explain to him/her why the situation is not as bad as it seems. (Exercise #6 could help with that.)
- Now ask her if it would be possible for you two to make peace, even temporarily.
How do you feel after doing this exercise Let Real-Tips Know?
Let’s start with the beautiful poem by Jalaluddin Rumi , The Guest House.
The Guest House . This being human is a guest house.Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness,some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all!Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,still, treat each guest honorably.He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sentas a guide from beyond. — Jellaludin Rumi
Then, let’s answer a couple of questions.
- Who are the guests that have visited your house today?
- What did they bring?
- How were they behaving?
- How did you feel?
- What are these guests trying to teach you?
- Can you write a short blessing and a note of gratitude for today’s visitors?
- How do you feel after doing this exercise?
9. Travel to the future
Alan Shepard, the fifth guy who stepped onto the Moon has experienced the radical shift in awareness during the expedition. He saw the planet Earth being the size of the quarter. All our worries, struggles, and goals were placed on that tiny quarter. Afterward, he could not experience the reality on the Earth in the same way. You and I may not be able to travel to the Moon this week, but we can definitely work on putting things in a better perspective.
Most of the things that seem crucial today won’t matter one year from now. Most won’t matter even a few months from now. Why are we then spending such vast amounts of energy on minutiae? When did we become so myopic? This Tips and Tricks will make you travel to the future and see your worries with respect to the larger picture of your life. You Will Overcome Your Anxiety and Depression.
Imagine entering your own house 20 years from now. What do you see? Describe the scene in Comments Below.
Now remind your 20-year older self of the particular matter that concerns you today. What is your 20-year older self saying? Does he/she care About?
Ask any of your 20-year older self what would be an ideal solution for the situation you’re facing today. What would he/she do? (Remember, he/she has 20 additional years of life experience. He/she probably solved that problem already.)
Thank your 20-year older self for the advice. You might come again in a similar situation.
How do you feel after doing this exercise Let us Know?
10. Turn your anxiety into an art form
Another gem from Samantha Benett. She suggests us to turn our anxiety into an art form. Because anxiety is just an emotion that, like any other emotion, wants to be felt and expressed. Instead of misusing our creativity to create scary scripts and projections, let channel it into an art form.
- How does your anxiety look like?
- What is the shape and color of your anxiety?
- What is the sound?
Turn your anxiety into a sketch, comic or a hysterical poem. Write about it or make a song about it. Up to you. The form doesn’t matter, as long as you let it out.
Ask your anxiety in which form it wants to be manifested. What did it say?
Make your sketch/painting/comic/hysterical poem/story/whatever works. (Feel free to share it in the comment below ASAP.) How do you feel after this exercise Does This Helps? Does This Worth Writing?
Our creativity is inherent and powerful potential. When we are worrying, we are misusing it. When we shift it and use it for something productive, stimulating and helpful, we are moving forward and feeling better. Anxiety fades away. In this post, we listed 10 strategies on how to do it.
Before you go Checkout These Amazing Article’s Now
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