How to Control Anxiety During Stressful Moments
What would raise your anxiety?
Anxiety – Imagine that you have an interview for a big job you want coming up. And imagine that said job interview is with someone very important and who has a reputation for being tough. Would this trigger your anxiety?
In the build up to this event, you’ll probably find yourself feeling anxiety and nerves. This will trigger the release of fight or flight hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. In extreme circumstances, you’ll start shaking, you’ll start sweating, your pupils will dilate and your muscles will contract.
This stress response is designed to help you if ever you get into a physical confrontation or you need to run away. But when you’re in a situation like an interview or a date, although the anxiety is usually less pronounced, it really doesn’t help.
So the question is, what can you do to overcome this anxiety and stay calm even in high pressured situations?
Luckily, there are a few methods that are known to work quite well…
The first thing to do is to remember to breathe. And don’t just breathe – breathe deeply.
When you do this, you will be able to instantly engage your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ state that you can go into. This state is actually the exact opposite of fight or flight and it helps you to feel calmer and more relaxed.
The worst thing you can do when you start to panic is to breathe faster and more shallowly, as this just makes you more stressed and can eventually cause you pass out if things get really bad!
Lean Into It
Another tip? Don’t worry about your anxiety or being stressed.
Too often, you get stressed and anxious and then try to fight the anxiety. Unfortunately, fighting stress is completely counterproductive. The more you fight it, the more you raise your fight or flight response. Eventually this causes your heart rate to increase, your muscles to contract and you will become even more tense.
At this point, you’re now stressed about being stressed! That is anxiety.
So instead, your goal should be to help yourself accept the stress and recognise it for what it is. Stress can actually make you stronger and more powerful.
Instead of trying to fight it, just let it happen but give it a positive spin.
This might mean thinking of your situation as a challenge, or it might mean thinking of an idol you know who has handled a similar situation well. Be ready to enhance your performance by rising to the challenge and enjoying your body getting worked up.
If you can do all this well, then you can eventually tap into enhanced performance without the feelings of anxiety, dread or the crawling stomach that can come from regular stress. When you do this really well, you will enter a ‘flow state’ which is a state of heightened performance characterised by reduced activity in the frontal cortex of your brain.
So just concentrate on the task at hand, give it full focus, feel your body become more alert and toned and tell yourself: