Anxiety, a physical reaction to an emotional trigger, eats away at millions of people everyday. Anxiety affects how we act, how we think, how we sleep. It can affect every and all parts of our lives if we do not learn to control it. So how to reduce anxiety is an important practice to learn.
Just about everyone I have ever met has experienced some level of anxiety at one time or another. Most commonly, it’s a relatively low level of anxiety caused by a feeling of tension or fear of the unknown or unexpected. Occasionally, people experience extremely high anxiety, which can reach the level of a medically diagnosed disorder that impacts daily activities and must be treated with medication and behavioral therapies.
We often open ourselves up to anxiety when we worry about what’s going to happen in the future; an unknown or even a known event that hasn’t yet occurred. Odds are that the things that we worry about or fear will not come to fruition, and most likely if they do, they won’t be anywhere near as bad as our minds imagine them to be. Sure, occasionally bad things are going to happen. There’s no avoiding that, but worrying and waiting for them to happen causes the pain of anxiety.
In other words, anxiety isn’t something we have to live with. So how can it be alleviated? The answer to that is easy even if the first step that needs to be taken is so simple that we may not have considered it.
When I meet people who are buying or selling a house, I often ask them, “What causes you the most anxiety when you are thinking of buying or selling a house?”
The answers I most frequently get are:
“I need to get a certain amount of money out of the sale.”
“The idea of moving all my belongings.”
“Being able to afford the payments on a new home.”
When I hear these answers, I usually respond: “I can’t take away all of your anxieties, but I can minimize them.”
How do I minimize anxiety? I do so by prescriptive behaviors that aim to reduce uncertainty. For example, I communicate often with my clients. They trust me to keep them informed. If my clients didn’t hear from me, it would leave them wondering what is going on during the transaction. And if they don’t know what’s up, they are left with questions, and with questions come uncertainty, and with uncertainty, anxiety is usually not far behind.
I, too, am not immune to anxiety. Every year around this time, I create anxiety in my own mind. I might ask myself how am I going to duplicate the previous year’s numbers? Or I ask myself the unproductive “what ifs.” What if the market shifts? What if I don’t sell as many houses as I did last year? What if I don’t make the money I need to make to pay my staff’s salaries and my bills? What if, what if, what if?
One thing I do know, I can’t control the unexpected “what ifs” but I can control my actions to prepare myself to handle them. For instance, I know that I need to track my results and set interim activity goals to exceed my previous year’s numbers. If I take the actions to accomplish the goals I set, then I’m better prepared if the unexpected arises.
Occasionally, I still worry even when I know I am prepared with the right game plan. So I ask myself, what is causing this worry? And I ask you the same: What causes worry in you?
And this is where that first, simple step that we didn’t consider enters the picture.
Simply put, that first step is an issue of trust. You may not have trust in what you’re doing. More powerfully, you might not have trust in something or someone bigger than you.
I once read a piece in a devotional that suggested anytime you’re feeling anxiety or worry, utter the words, “I trust you, Jesus.” That devotional is specific to my faith, but whether you’re Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, any other denomination or nothing at all, uttering the words, “I trust you, XXX” will help lift the weight of anxiety from your body.
After I read that piece, I figured it was worth a shot. So for three weeks, any time I felt a level of anxiety, whether it was from work or at home, I uttered the words, “I trust you, Jesus,” and immediately I felt the anxiety leave my body. It was truly amazing.
We worry about our children and life in general. That’s natural. I believe worry is also built into some cultures. People believe that they are supposed to worry as a demonstration of caring, so they worry and then they open themselves up to anxiety.
But maybe we worry because we don’t trust beyond our own capacities, beyond our own understanding. So next time you feel anxiety creeping into your mind, utter your words of trust in something or someone, and I’d be willing to bet that you’ll feel the stress release from your body.
Give it a try, and then let me know how it worked.