How much planning do you put into your life? Are you more comfortable when you know exactly where you are going, how you will get there, who will be there, how you will get home etc, etc. If something changes last minute does it seem to upset you more than others? Do you find it hard to cope with the unexpected or the feeling that you are not in control?
A key feature of anxiety is control. Very often you will hear people describe themselves or others as “control freaks”. Control and the need to control people or situations is often associated with a power grab, however in the context of anxiety, control is often about the need to be in control of everything in your environment or surroundings in order to feel secure. The feeling of uncertainty or a lack of control can seem intolerable.
People who are anxious live in a world where they desperately want to be able to control life. They are often looking for certainty. The problem is that worrying about how things might go wrong can drain us of energy and motivation. When you are always trying to control things that you can’t control you have less energy to control the things you can.
Try asking yourself how much time do I spend worrying about things I can’t control? How much of my energy am I giving to things that I cannot influence? Try to keep focussing on the things you can control.
Pay attention to what happens to your body when you encounter a situation that is unfamiliar or unplanned. We can often experience physical symptoms of anxiety when this happens; maybe shallow breathing, increased heart rate, flushing or sweating. That is our nervous system/threat system kicking in with a burst of adrenaline. The quickest to regulate ourselves is to simply pause, acknowledge we are overwhelmed and take a few deep breaths. Try to make the outbreath twice as long as the inbreath.
In the longer term acknowledge that yes that feeling is uncomfortable but it won’t kill us and we can get through it. Try to become more comfortable with the discomfort, …. I know it sounds strange but although these feelings can be extremely uncomfortable but they can't kill you. The way to reduce the need for control is to become more comfortable with less control and increase our tolerance for discomfort.
If you would like some help with practicing this or you would like to examine your anxiety further, please get in touch.