Anxiety. What wouldn’t you give for one day without it getting in the way? You could be building relationships, participating in class or social gatherings, and even enjoying a party or two. Only if it were that easy.
“Forwarned is forarmed“ – Robert Greene
But what if I told you that your anxiety persists because of the things you don’t do every day? And that you can take control today?
Not to worry, these 8 tips will help you identify and combat your negative thoughts to reduce your anxiety. You will be able to go out armed with a stronger mindset because knowledge is power.
Tip #1: Slow down
Slowing down is the most basic and essential practice to beat your anxiety and regain your self-esteem.
When you have an anxiety disorder, your fight-or-flight response triggers too easily. That means your body is prepped to escape danger or face it even when it shouldn’t. Either way, you got some serious juice coursing through your veins.
All that adrenaline may increase your heart rate, cause your hands to shake, your body to sweat, and your thoughts to race.
We tend to get so busy with our lives that we often don’t find the time to be present. Even when we do have the time, there’s always the next entertaining TV show or video game. But it’s so important to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n.
When you slow down, you will notice that your negative thoughts are not yours. They’re the language of anxiety and fear, which you don’t need controlling your life.
So, slow down.
Tip #2: Stop mind reading
Mind reading is a habit that we often pick up with anxiety and low self-esteem because we are pattern seeking creatures. Our brain naturally looks for connections and meaningful patterns for survival.
Here’s what you’re doing without realizing:
You assume what people think based on your own thinking. Then, you interpret people’s behavior through your own lenses and look for clues that support your thinking – textbook inductive reasoning.
But you take it one step further.
Because your thoughts are negative, you’ve already assumed the conclusion of a social interaction. That means, if you think you’re bad at talking to people, it manifests in your behavior and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Then you beat yourself up (more negative self-talk) and reinforce your maladaptation.
That’s why you might interpret someone’s laughter as a personal attack.
“you don’t know what people think and you can’t control it.”
The next time you find yourself assuming someone else’s thoughts, remember that you don’t know what people think and you can’t control it. As you become more adept with this way of thinking, you will learn to focus on and appreciate your positive thinking over others.
Tip #3: Catastrophizing with anxiety is a no-no
Another terrible habit is catastrophizing.
You might have experienced embarrassment in the past – maybe your friends made fun of you, or your parents yelled at you in public. But, you’ve learned to view similar situations, like public speaking where you might be made to feel embarrassed, as threatening.
Your mind, by default, interprets and reacts to such events with no room for an alternative view.
Then you’re left feeling like you’re never doing anything right. Everything that goes wrong is your fault and you start feeling less than others.
Your brain doesn’t know the difference. But you can teach it to learn that you’re not less than others. You’re mighty strong and no one can take that from you. The best way to fight this and boost your self-esteem is to learn forgiveness.
Tip #4: Learn to forgive yourself.
Social anxiety and low self-esteem encourage negative thinking that often encourages you to feel embarrassed about making a mistake in social situations.
You might feel ‘dumb’ for saying something no one reacted to or be clumsy and feel embarrassed about it. Feeling embarrassed about simple mistakes will hold you back from enjoying social situations.
I needed to learn to accept that what’s different about me is not automatically bad. Self-acceptance is major key to your self-esteem, as DJ Khaled would say.
Start thinking about yourself as “limited edition” because you are unique. Stop looking at your ‘difference’ as a flaw. You are uniquely beautiful.
Tip #5: Learn positive self-talk
Do you know why bad habits are so difficult to get rid of?
They need to be replaced, not stopped.
Habits play an important role in your life, even if they are detrimental to you. Your thoughts will not suddenly become positive because you want them to. Especially, when you have social anxiety disorder and low self-esteem.
The tricky part is figuring out what your negative thoughts are. Here is a nifty trick to figure that out.
The next time you’re feeling anxious, recognize what you are feeling and tell yourself that’s it’s okay.
That won’t stop your anxiety but it will help you be present in the moment. Then try to recall what you were thinking while you were freaking out inside and write it down.
I use this technique myself. In fact, I wrote some of my thoughts on a sticky note while anxious and kept the note. I hate to admit it, but a part of me identified with those terrible thoughts.
But I always remind myself that my negative thoughts will not win me over.
Tip #6: Learn to be grateful
Social anxiety disorder has a nasty way of uprooting you from what’s valuable in your life. It will encourage you to give up the things that make you happy and undervalue the things that are unique to you.
If you yield to that temptation, you will be on a fast track to victimhood and depression. Everything from self-pity, to low self-esteem, to self-loath, to feelings of worthlessness.
Learning to be grateful for the people in your life, for the clothes on your back, for the sun that provides life and light, for the lessons learned, for your job, your family, and your kids, and for being alive, will be a source of strength for your journey against such temptations.
Your biggest enemy is losing hope that tomorrow will be brighter. Maybe not as bright as you’d like, but it’s another day to love and to appreciate life in all its glory.
Tip #7: Invest in yourself
People tend to value what they pay for. You will not buy anything that doesn’t add value to your life because the price you pay is the worth you’ve attributed to the item.
The same principle applies to your self-esteem. You validate yourself when you buy the watch that you’ve been eyeing for months, or the course that teaches you how to write better, or when you start your own blog. Whatever it may be, investing in yourself is a self-esteem booster.
Stop holding yourself back.
Reward yourself for fighting every day because it hasn’t been easy! I hope you look forward to feeling better.
Tip #8: Identify what you love to do
Identifying what you love is incredibly powerful.
When my anxiety got the best of me and I felt down and out, I couldn’t find the strength to get up in the morning. My self-esteem was at an all time low and I felt hopeless.
I stopped caring about my hygiene, my education, keeping in touch with people, and socializing because it felt pointless if I couldn’t go out in the real world.
But one day lying in bed, I asked myself this question:
“What is one thing that I’d love to do if I had all the time in the world?”
My answer made me reevaluate what mattered to me and brought me joy. Why didn’t I start sooner?
I wanted to create something with my hands and my words. Something I’d work for to improve people’s lives. I decided, blogging was the answer. YOU were the answer to living a life that I love.
The journey is what gets me out of bed every single day. There is so much to learn and I have so much to give to my audience, it’s hard to contain it all.
So, what do you love to do?
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Note that this post is rewritten from my story for a shorter read. Now you have value in fewer words!
Please, do share your experience in the comments section. I’m eager to hear about you. Thank you for reading!