We can't avoid stress all the time, but we can learn to manage it.
If we realize that we are suffering from an episode of anxiety, what can we do to improve the situation? Here are some helpful tips:
1The first step is to find the root of our anxiety
We need to examine what may be the cause behind our anxiety. Sometimes, it’s very clear, such as an exam we have to pass, a work interview, or waiting for the results of medical tests. Things like these can submit our body and soul to an accumulation of tension that disturbs our equilibrium.
But the cause isn’t always that clear. Sometimes, the cause of anxiety is hidden, and we have to engage in a deeper and even more sincere self-examination to discover it. Such is the situation, for example, for mothers or fathers who have accumulated fatigue because of an overload of responsibilities. Some suffer in silence until they explode. Feeling tired and not seeing any hope for improvement on the horizon creates a lot of stress. But our desire to appear strong, to be responsible, makes us hide from ourselves the cause of our anxiety and the gravity of the situation. We think it’s our duty to keep soldiering on, and that simply leads to a vicious circle of tiredness and stress until we break.
We have to be sincere with ourselves and name what’s happening to us. This is an indispensable step for overcoming the situation.
2Share your problem with someone who can help you
When we’re assaulted by anxiety, we have to ask ourselves with whom we can talk for advice. Sometimes it will be our spouse; other times, it might be a sibling or close friend, a professional colleague, or in more serious cases, a mental health professional.
It should be someone who can analyze our problem with objectivity and who is a moral authority for us. In addition to being someone we can confide in, it should be someone that we love. Knowing that we are loved regardless of anything else is an important step for helping reduce anxiety. We need to know that we are not alone.
If we come to think that our anxiety goes beyond what our family, friends, or colleagues can help us resolve, it’s time to consult a professional. We need to go to a doctor and explain what’s happening; they can advise us if we need to visit a specialist.
3Make time for relaxation
If the problem is related to being overburdened, but we can’t at present reduce our workload or our family responsibilities, we need to find some way to decrease our anxiety through healthy relaxation.
We can think of our day as a highway: every certain number of miles, there should be a rest area where we can buy a snack, stretch our legs, fill the tank with gas, and then continue driving, refreshed and re-energized.
In our daily lives, the forms of relaxation can be very varied, according to our tastes and interests. For example, if we have to commute to work and home again, we can listen to music that puts us in a good mood, or calms us down, according to our needs—or perhaps an audio book that takes our mind off our worries.
Another very useful means for reducing anxiety is physical exercise, or discovering hobbies, such as photography, that can put us in contact with nature.
Sometimes we need a bit more time for R&R, which can take the form of a anything ranging from a one-day excursion to a full-fledged vacation.
4Don't be dominated by fear of the future
Often, anxiety is created by fear of something that hasn’t yet happened. We may be afraid of losing our job, of not living up to the expectations of our spouse, or of our children having a difficult future. If we don’t handle these concerns well, they can freeze us up and keep us from making progress, instead of making us prudent and encouraging us to face the future proactively and courageously.
We need to learn to control our fear so that it doesn’t work against us. To that end, we need to focus on real life, on the information we have at hand, and not allow our imagination to become obsessed with something that hasn’t happened and which may never happen. We should also take prudent measures to prepare for the future.
Another thing that can help is to write down what is worrying us. Once we’ve written down all our concerns, we can read them again and cross off all those that don’t have a foundation in reality.
5Set positive goals
There’s no better way to fight our worries and anxiety than with positive and hopeful goals that motivate us to take action.
It’s particularly helpful if we can work on something that has a positive impact on what is worrying us. For example, if we get stressed out thinking about the possibility of losing our job, we can do something to improve our professional opportunities, such as taking a language course, creating a profile on LinkedIn, or looking for people who can give us professional advice. Knowing that we are taking steps to ensure our future can help reduce our anxiety.
When it comes to family life, we can overcome our stress by setting small, reachable goals. For example, we can teach our children to help us with household tasks, which will be educational for them and will ease our burden too.
These five steps can help us, but we also need to remember that only God can give us the peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) when we turn to Him in prayer, asking for what we need and thanking Him for His many blessings. God is not like a fairy godmother who will remove our worries with a wave of a wand: He works in mysterious ways, often allowing situations we don’t like or understand. Still, we know He hears our prayers and is watching over us, and can touch our hearts with His grace, granting us peace even in difficult situations.
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