It is my personal theory, that once we understand anxiety's purpose (action) we can find meaningful ways to combat it... and even eventually use it as a force of good in our lives. Your anxiety is usually here to tell you something- and if you stop running and start listening... you just might make peace with it!
Anxiety's Messages- I believe all of anxiety can be boiled down into three categories:1. "You should act!" - and you should!
2. "You should act!" - but you can't!
3. There is no action to take- what now?
Let's break them down-
1. "You should act!"- and you should!
In the case of number one, your anxiety is working with you. It is your friend here. Your anxiety is your warning system- letting you know: "Hey, something ought to be done here. This isn't working out." This could be simple: like a deadline approaching. It could be complicated: maybe you feel anxiety every time you leave for work. But the result is the same: your anxiety is trying to tell you something worthwhile. If you want it to go away... listen! I believe the majority of your run-of-the-mill-anxiety falls into this category. If you make friends with your anxiety, you just might realize it's time to work on that project of yours, or it's time to make a career move you've been putting off.
2. "You should act!"- but you can't!
Here's the trick for distinguishing #1 and #2: Do you have any ability to change the thing causing you anxiety? If the answer is yes: then see #1 again. Give yourself a pep talk, and get to it! If the answer is no- then this is where your anxiety has started to go rogue on you. It is trying to be helpful, but silly little anxiety- it's not being! Examples of this would be- anxiety about others (other's feelings, other's actions), or anxiety about unpredictable possibilities (car accidents, air travel, someone you love getting sick) because these things are not within your control. Therefore, you can tell your anxiety- "Thank you, message received. I know you are trying to tell me to act. Usually you're my friend. In this case you're wrong though. I have no control here and you telling me to act will do nothing but cause me harm, so therefore I will let you go."
Sometimes, it's as simple as that. Other times... anxiety is harder to let go of, more pervasive, or more complicated to find the root. In this case, consider...
3. There Is No Action To Take- What Now?
This is what happens when you've gone through step 1 (done what you can), step 2 (released control over what you can't) and STILL can't seem to shake the anxiety. This is when the anxiety is persistent, and won't budge. Maybe you can't even figure out exactly WHAT you're anxious about! What the heck is going on here?
This is where we get into counseling territory. Your "fight or flight" survival instincts have gone haywire and are now bossing YOU around. You want to be free of it, but can't seem to shake it. It impacts your life or your happiness in negative ways, but you don't know what to do. This is where an experienced counselor (me? :) ) can do wonders.
Often (it is my opinion) this anxiety sticks around because there is more to it than meets the eye. Usually there are past experiences, hurts, and fears that are unresolved and are (unknown to you) causing you to now feel plagued by anxiety. By figuring out the true roots of the anxiety, you can try Steps 1 and 2 again- and finally have peace from your nagging friend.