Anxiety is our mind and body’s reactionary way of letting us know something is… wrong. We may or may not even know why we’re feeling the way we are in the moment, but we’re stressed. Confused. Panicking. Acting out of the norm. Collapsing. And now you’re completely and utterly stuck.
We’ve all been there, in some way, shape, or form. Things don’t always go as planned. A miniscule offset can jeopardize how calm and collected we were with an unprecedented takeover. Whether it’s an argument with someone, a piece of unfortunate information, or life just spontaneously sidelining us, in-the-moment anxiety is a foe that we all must face. How we do so is a culmination of one’s intellect, rationalization, and composure. It’s imperative to learn your own combatting techniques that work best for you, especially in the long run. I’m not here to shed light on what list of possible anti-anxiety methods you can do (though I’ll touch on a couple later on), but rather to share three closed-ended questions that anyone can ask to immediately zone in with themselves, and hopefully present a mental procedure that can help alleviate anxiety in an unexpected moment’s notice. While the order in which I describe each question’s purpose is below, they can asked in any order, and followed up by any of the other two in the appropriate circumstance.
Can I Do Anything About This, Right Now?
A lot of the time in an anxiety-ridden moment we tend to overthink. And overthinking is one of the worst ways to quickly spiral down from where your usual logical Self resides. Overthinking affects your thoughts, which in turn can affect your normal functions, impair your willpower, and leads to poor judgement and decision-making. While you might not want to believe the answer you get in a given incident, ask yourself this: Can I do anything about this situation, RIGHT NOW? I’m not talking in a couple of hours, I’m not talking about tomorrow, I’m talking about right there and then in the present minute that you are going through in that very moment. Yes, or no? Most of the time, the answer will be No, because otherwise, why did you start stressing? If it does happen to be a Yes, then figure out what the solution is. Otherwise, consider this, and really think about it: feelings are just fleeting emotions. An emotion is simply a fleeting thought that we think with every morsel of our being. When you truly come to register this, you’ll slowly pick up on how you’re feeling during any moment’s emotional turn, and how you can respond to it right there and then. You’re able to because you understand that you’re not going to feel like this forever. Not even the next day. You’ll reset. Things will be alright once again. You cannot fix every problem that comes up on a whim. Therefore, if you can’t do ANYTHING to resolve the current problem, accept it, and move on. Here’s a real-life example.
You get your first exam back from your professor. You find out you failed. You feel like shit. You ask yourself — can I do anything about it right now? Unless you’re comfortable with some sextra credit, probably not. You must accept the F. You accept that you can’t change the test letter, but you CAN still raise your total grade over the course of the semester. You realize it’s pointless to overanalyze your first exam’s mistakes, and instead will try harder on the next one.
Is This Anxiety Worth It?
A second question to pose to yourself is ‘is this worth it?’ While we all want to scream at the top of lungs YES, especially when we’re absolutely frustrated, it’s sometimes not. We just want it to be because, well, you want to be right. You want to justify what your brain is firing at your nerves, and you want to be the victor. And yet, you might simply be overreacting. Whether out of spite, from a lack of impulse control, or a general detraction from logic, you try to win over your inner self. Here’s the thing though: you might be wrong. Crazy concept! I know.
You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect (that’d be sick though). And with that imperfection comes being human and crafting yourself to be better. So when you ask yourself ‘is this worth it,’ you’re indirectly asking your subconsciousness for a lending hand. And in a moment’s notice, you might even get that gut feeling punch that tells you Yes or No. But if it doesn’t, then it’s up to you and your thoughts to decide on the matter. Just remember, it’s okay to be on the wrong side / to be corrected. With the current political landscape, that anxiety you’re feeding up with someone’s opposite opinion is truly all for naught. You’re just dissipating negative energy on a conversation that won’t change one’s mind either way. Here’s a more thorough example.
You’re arguing with your partner. In this instance, let’s say over them coming home late every day. They’re not cheating, by the way. You’re infuriated because you can’t see them as much as you thought you would. They come home and you start to yell, scold at them. They scream back that they’ve been asked to work overtime as of recent and it’s out of their hands. You don’t budge. It goes on for what feels like an hour. After a few minutes though, you ask yourself ‘is this anxiety worth it?’ And you realize that you’ve been given a satisfiable answer, and it’s you who is instigating matters further. You stop, admit your wrongdoings, and apologize. Your partner reciprocates. Sometimes, it’s literally that easy. And yet, here we are, with a 50% divorce rate in the U.S.
Can I Leave The Situation?
And finally, a more tactile outlet, is to literally pause and ask yourself ‘can I leave the room?’ This is not a coward’s way out. It’s an apt person’s leave. If you can physically extract yourself from a scenario that’s putting you at unease, do it. Just get out. Because you know, deep down, that if you stay and things escalate farther, you’ll end up trapped in a hole that was once 3 feet under, now 30 meters down. And it could’ve been avoided! That’s the worst part! Every time!
This is where I touch base with the commonplace tactics against anxiety. But hey, they really do work. Once you leave the area, keep going. Take a walk. Put in your headphones if you have them. Play some calming music and take deep breaths. The usual 1, 2, 3, 4 breathe in and out combo is still one of the most prevailing mechanisms against anxiety because it fulfills what you ultimately want — stop focusing on the anxiety. You can’t breathe slowly in focus and concentrate on your anxiety at the same time, it’s impossible. Just keeping going until you settle yourself out. Eventually, you will.
One Last Thing
Again, this is one structural thought process that I use in the hopes that it can help you in a future, impromptu frustration. Obviously, this can only help as much as the person is willing to deconstruct themselves for change, and in more spur-of-the-moment times. If you’re stuck in a job that causes you everyday stress, that’s a different level of anxiety to best.
And once more, feel free to use these questions in a nonsequential order. A last short example from the 1st person narrative:
I’m arguing with a colleague that they’re not doing their assigned work for our group project. They retort that they are, they just don’t have their work on them, but they’ll have it finished in a couple of days. I ask myself “is this anxiety worth it?” and realize No, it’s not, because it’s not going to add any work to the project. I follow up with “Can I do anything about it right now?” and realize No, I can’t. But I can in a couple of days since that’s what I was informed. And I end with ‘Can I leave this situation?’ and answer Yes, letting them know that okay, I’ll leave you to it and entrust you with your part. And then hope to God that they do.