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4 Ways Taking Action Can Calm Your Anxiety

When we are stressed and anxious we usually fall into one or more behavior traps that keep us stuck. We repeat these things over and over. Most of the time we don’t even know we are doing these things. They have become our habit and our way of protecting ourselves.

These are the most common go-to behaviors when our anxiety is triggered and what you can do instead.

1. PROCRASTINATION

Procrastination is a way of avoiding the thing that is stressful for you. This keeps you from doing the things you want and need to do and you likely beat yourself up for procrastinating. 

What to do instead:

When your procrastination has been triggered, ask yourself, “What am I avoiding? Can I avoid it forever or will I have to do it eventually?”

Most likely, you’re going to have to do it at some point.  You get to choose if you step into this zone of being uncomfortable now or later. Choose now so you can get it over with and you can stop thinking and stressing about it.  

If you are second-guessing yourself and you’re not sure what your first or next step is, talk it out with a friend or co-worker. The fear of “I don’t know what to do” can be solved quickly.

Now go do the darn thing! You got this!

2. WORRYING 

When you feel anxious, you think about everything that can go wrong. You stay stuck in the worry and cannot take action. 99.9% of the things you are worrying about will never happen. It feels so huge in your head though. Worrying creates stress in your body and leads to full blown anxiety. Do you wake in the middle of the night worrying about things? It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? 

The fact is, that never, ever, ever has a problem been solved by worrying.  

Here’s how to break the worry cycle:

Ask yourself, “What do I have control over?” Then decide what action you can take in that space of control. Worrying is NOT an action. 

Once you see there is something you can do, go do it! There is nothing more powerful over our minds than taking action and proving all our worry thoughts wrong. 

3. PERFECTIONISM 

Did you know that perfectionism is the greatest form of procrastination? It helps us avoid the things that make us anxious. Perfect does NOT exist, which means you will never finish that thing you’re working on. You may never even get started.

Perfectionism is a trap, fooling us into thinking that we have such high standards for ourselves and that’s a good thing. Wrong! It holds us back from learning and growing. If you’ve ever heard of the growth mindset, you know what I’m talking about. When you adopt a growth mindset you don’t think about getting it all right. You think about what is this “try” going to teach me, so the next time I “try” I’ll be smarter. 

Here’s what you can do:

When you find yourself trying to get it perfect, ask yourself “What’s the worst thing that will happen if this is B+ work instead of A+ work? Will anyone but me really notice?” Probably not. Approach each thing you are avoiding as an opportunity to learn something new. If this mindset is foreign to you, check out Carol Dweck’s book Mindset – The New Psychology of Success.

4. STRESS EATING 

When you’re feeling anxious food comforts you. Well, it comforts you in the moment. But later you most likely regret that emotional eating. We all have our comfort foods. The biggest problem with this behavior is it is such an auto-pilot response we don’t even notice it. 

Here’s what you can do:

Before you grab something and put it in your mouth ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” If not, exit the kitchen and go get busy for 10 minutes. Your desire to comfort yourself with food will most likely go away.  Try some deep breathing.

And this next one is the most powerful…get up and move! Anxiety isn’t just an emotion. It sits in our body as muscle aches, a racing heart, a heavy heart, sweaty palms etc. When you move, you help the anxiety move through and out of your body. Give it a try.

If you’re not sure which of the above behaviors is your default, go take this quick 5 question quiz to find out.

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