How To Have A Healthy Relationship With Your Anxiety

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For many people, anxiety is that persistent guest who overstays its welcome in their minds.

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It’s like a constant buzz in the background, sometimes a whisper, sometimes a scream. But what if, instead of trying to kick it out, we learned to cohabitate peacefully? Think of it as building a healthy relationship with that anxious roommate in your head.

1. Acknowledge its presence.

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The first step to a healthy relationship with anything, including anxiety, is acknowledging it exists. Don’t try to bury it or pretend it’s not there. The more you resist it, the louder it seems to get. Instead, say, “Hello, anxiety. I see you, and I’m here to listen.” Yes, it may sound silly, but it helps. This simple acknowledgment can take away some of its power.

2. Don’t fight it, feel it.

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As Healthline notes, anxiety often comes with a whirlwind of physical sensations – racing heart, tight chest, sweaty palms. It’s easy to panic and try to fight these feelings, but that can make them worse. Instead, try to sit with those sensations, observe them without judgment, and let them pass. Remember, feelings are like waves; they rise, peak, and eventually fall.

3. Learn its triggers.

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Every anxious episode has a trigger, even if it’s not immediately obvious. It could be a specific thought, a place, or even a certain time of day. Start keeping a journal to track your anxiety. Note down when it strikes, what you were doing, and what you were thinking. Over time, you’ll start to see patterns and identify your triggers. This knowledge is power, allowing you to better anticipate and manage your anxiety.

4. Give it a name.

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This might sound silly, but giving your anxiety a name can be surprisingly helpful. It creates a sense of separation between you and the anxiety, making it less overwhelming. You can choose a playful name like “Anxious Annie” or “Worry Wart,” or something more personal. The point is to externalize it, so it feels less like a part of you and more like an annoying visitor.

5. Challenge its stories.

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Anxiety loves to tell stories, often worst-case scenarios that rarely come true. “What if I fail?” “What if people don’t like me?” “What if something terrible happens?” These stories are often based on fear, not facts. When you catch yourself spiraling into these narratives, gently challenge them with questions like, “Is this really likely to happen?” or “What’s the worst that could happen, and could I handle it?”

6. Find healthy distractions.

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When anxiety strikes, don’t let it monopolize your attention. Find healthy distractions that engage your mind and body, Verywell Mind suggests. This could be anything from going for a walk in nature to listening to uplifting music, reading a good book, or spending time with loved ones. The key is to shift your focus away from the anxiety and towards something positive.

7. Practice self-care.

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Taking care of your physical and mental well-being is crucial for managing anxiety. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities you enjoy. When you’re well-rested and nourished, you’re better equipped to handle life’s challenges, including anxiety.

8. Don’t be afraid to get some help.

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If your anxiety is interfering with your daily life or causing significant distress, don’t hesitate to get professional help. A therapist can provide valuable tools and techniques to manage anxiety, as well as help you understand its underlying causes. Remember, there’s no shame in asking for help; it’s a sign of strength and a commitment to your well-being.

9. Set boundaries with it.

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Like any roommate, anxiety can get a little pushy if you let it. It might try to take over your entire life, dictating your choices and limiting your experiences. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries. Tell anxiety that it’s welcome to stay for a while, but it doesn’t get to run the show. You’re still in charge, and you get to decide how much space it gets to take up.

10. Don’t let it isolate you.

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Anxiety can be a master manipulator, convincing you that you’re better off alone, that people won’t understand, or that you’ll just embarrass yourself. Don’t buy into its lies. Reach out to trusted friends or family members, talk about how you’re feeling, and let them offer support. Sometimes, just sharing your struggles can take away some of their power.

11. Focus on the present.

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Anxiety loves to dwell on the past (“Why did I say that?”) and fret about the future (“What if this happens?”). But the present moment is all we truly have. When anxiety tries to pull you into its time machine, gently bring your attention back to the here and now. Focus on your breath, your surroundings, or the task at hand. Mindfulness practices can be a powerful tool for grounding yourself in the present.

12. Be patient with yourself.

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Building a healthy relationship with anxiety takes time and effort. There will be setbacks and moments when it feels like you’re taking two steps forward and one step back. That’s okay. Be kind to yourself, acknowledge your progress, and don’t give up. Remember, it’s a journey, not a destination.

13. Celebrate small victories.

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Did you manage to calm yourself down during an anxiety attack? Did you face a fear you’ve been avoiding? Did you simply get through the day without letting anxiety control you? These are all victories worth celebrating. Take a moment to acknowledge your efforts and be proud of yourself. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in building resilience and strengthening your relationship with anxiety.

14. Look for the lessons.

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Anxiety might be a pain in the neck, but it can also be a teacher. It can show you where your boundaries are, what your values are, and what you need to work on. By paying attention to its messages, you can gain valuable insights into yourself and use them to grow and evolve.

15. Remember, you’re not alone.

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Millions of people struggle with anxiety, and you’re not alone in this battle. There are countless resources available, from support groups to online forums to professional therapists. Reach out, connect with people, and share your experiences. You might be surprised at how empowering it can be to realize that you’re not alone and that there’s hope for a brighter, less anxious future.

Originally from Australia, Emma Mills graduated from the University of Queensland with a dual degree in Philosophy and Applied Linguistics before moving to Los Angeles to become a professional matchmaker (a bit of a shift, obviously). Since 2015, she has helped more than 150 people find lasting love and remains passionate about bringing amazing singletons together.

Emma is also the author of the upcoming Hachette publication, "Off the Beaten Track: Finding Lasting Love in the Least Likely of Places," due out in January 2025.