Although a previous newsletter dealt with anxiety and stress, Overcoming Anxiety and Stress, there is more to say as so many people struggle with these painful states and prevention is better than cure. Identifying the cause of anxiety and stress can help find the best tool(s) or combination of them to prevent these demons from taking over, perhaps for good. So let’s talk about what triggers anxiety and stress and what might stop these demons at their source. Since techniques to stop or reduce these states are the same regardless of the cause, possible solutions are all given at the end.

States that Trigger Anxiety and Stress

Feeling overwhelmed is often the result of perfectionism, which causes beliefs that even a small wrong action or decision might have terrible results. While some actions or decisions do have bad outcomes, they are mostly ones that involve:
- disregarding your best interests or common sense
- not doing any or sufficient analysis or planning or using
  illogical assumptions
- practicing an addiction
- hurting others
- criminal behavior
Some of these points are easier than others to avoid and some require learning new mental skills, but time and energy is better spent learning to think more clearly than feeling constantly overwhelmed.

We all feel this way at times, but many people have difficulty figuring out priorities, managing time, keeping up with what they need to do, and/or avoiding distraction. Feeling that life is out of control with potentially frightening consequences can cause an especially painful type of anxiety, panic attacks, though these can also result from other causes.

People often imagine that they can postpone acting on essential tasks, self-care, or commitments and make them up later. We may no longer be aware of our resistance to what we need to do. Perhaps we even deny that we are falling further behind and living with greater anxiety, stress, and consequences. However, the longer any need is postponed, the less likely it is to ever be caught up, and the more anxiety and stress we will feel. The desperation that results is harmful to health and peace of mind.

Not keeping up with life leads to feeling that everything is about to fall apart, that many disasters are possible or even likely. Indeed, disasters may be lurking, but hyper-vigilance and anxiety are usually less beneficial than preventive action(s).

Anxiety often causes feelings of having erred in some way that will lead to rejection when discovered. This belief may cause a vicious circle: anxiety causes odd interactions, leading to feeling that others are judging you, which causes even more strained interactions and relationships, and leading to more anxiety.

Narcissists’ constant criticism, bullying, demands, and commands cause people around them to feel intensely anxious and stressed. Narcissists do this to manipulate others to think that their needs are more important than anyone else’s, but the toll on their victims (often children) is huge.

This belief can develop from frequently being told that your efforts are insufficient, but children of addicts often think this way because they couldn’t stop their parent(s) from practicing their addiction or minimize the impact on the family. This feeling of helplessness often produces ongoing anxiety and stress.

We all have limits on what we can do without causing harm to other areas of life. Digging deep into your emotions may show the real causes for why you take on more than is healthy, usually a need to compensate for some perceived lack or flaw, belief that other’s needs are greater, or a sense of guilt.

Many people live in a state of constant worry, a debilitating and stressful state that produces considerable anxiety and stress. Worry is a form of self-torture, spoiling pleasure in life and creating a state of constant distress. Most people who chronically worry think that they cannot do otherwise, but this is rarely true.

Modern life often causes us to feel that we might face an imminent threat which leads to our bodies being flooded with hormones that might help us cope if we needed to run from a lion or engage in combat. However, these hormones are quite harmful in normal life when they are usually not used up and are left in our body. Unless we act to reduce/remove these hormones, they remain for a long time, creating a toxic stew that is quite harmful. We may not realize that our organs are swimming in these hormones, but we know we are not calm and relaxed, and that produces stress.  
There are many more potential causes of anxiety and the resulting stress, but these are enough to get started.

Possible Solutions
* Always remember that anxiety and stress are just demons. Never listen to, believe, or act on their instructions. Read Demon Fighting Tools to put these feelings to rest.

* Write about your anxiety and why it should not own you:
- because 90% of what we fear never happens and the remaining 10% does not happen the way we expect; write about all the times that you were anxious about something that did not happen
- because our demons always LIE, distort reality, and twist our thinking; write about how your demons mislead you, spoil your pleasure in life, and cause you to act counter to your best interests

* Write about TINY daily action steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of your anxieties ever becoming real.

* Studying cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety can help prevent anxiety and stress. This isn’t an instant solution, but it will pay huge dividends every day of your life.  

* Distinguish between real events (fire, earthquake, flood, job loss) and imaginary ones (those that are only your demons fantasizing about things that MIGHT happen (someone might be mad, you might be upset). Focus on what you can do to prevent or prepare for the real events and eliminate those that only exist in your mind.

* Be happy with tiny progress – few tasks are really urgent, and none are made better or easier by getting upset.

* Start any big or oppressive tasks or decisions by doing the tiniest pieces of it first. Keep knocking off small, easy, painless pieces until the task or decision no longer causes anxiety or stress.

* Keep all deadlines easy and foolproof. Artificial or self-imposed deadlines make people crazy. Keep all task goals small and reasonable so that you do not become upset or depressed by struggling to work faster than is good for you. Beating yourself up to do more than is comfortable or practical will make you anxious and stressed.

* Practice making minor mistakes and fixing them to build confidence in your ability to recover from them and learn that mistakes are not the end of the world.

* Practice forgiving yourself for errors large and small. Performance will not improve by beating yourself up. To improve, look for a series of small steps that you can take one-at-a-time to produce eventual big gains.

* Weighted blankets reduce anxiety in some people.

* Exercise is powerful for preventing or reducing anxiety, stress, and depression.

* Perspective reduces anxiety and stress as well. Ask yourself how much any given event or situation would matter in a year, five years, ten years.

*  Ask yourself whether you are going to laugh about anything that causes anxiety in a year, five years, ten years. If so, laugh about it now.
         Laughter has remarkable properties for healing serious illness and reducing pain, anxiety, and stress. Norman Cousins detailed using laughter to heal himself of a nearly fatal illness in his book “Anatomy of an Illness.”

* Even when you succeed in quieting your demons, remember that they may return, sometimes with greater ferocity, and often when you are at a low point emotionally. You need to be prepared to fight them off every time if you want a life without the pain of anxiety. Having ready-made responses to the lies your demons tell can prevent a slip back into anxiety and stress. Review “Demon Fighting Tools” or some similar resource every day until anxiety is not a problem for you.


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© Gloria Valoris, 2015

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