Fear is a subjective concept that no two people define the same way. What we fear most varies from person to person, and we experience a slight form of fear every day. Questions of uncertainty often interfere with our daily flow of thoughts.
A problem occurs when questions do not leave our minds, and instead, instill deep levels of anxiety: Will I meet the deadline? Will I have enough money? Will this work out?
Everyone experiences some form of anxiety. We worry both when we are happy and unhappy. The only variable that changes is the reason behind our worries.
More often than not, however, our excessive concerns do not have bases for anxiety. We start to worry about worrying, which leads us nowhere but downward.
Albert Ellis proposed the idea behind the basic irrational assumption theory. He argued that our maladaptive thoughts occur when we irrationally reason in our heads. We think of ways that situations can end badly and develop scenarios in our heads without any basis.
For example, consider an assignment with an attached deadline you need to submit. You imagine that if you don't meet the deadline, you will lose your job, which would prevent you from paying rent on time, which would get you evicted.
Now, supposedly jobless and homeless, you imagine the hardships of your imagined situation. Dramatic? Indeed. However, similar scenarios occur in everyone's minds when faced with a difficult situation.
This example may seem exaggerated. Nevertheless, from time to time, we have all imagined the worst when we don't hear from a friend or receive an ambivalent email from a boss. Therefore, to cope with stressful situations, one must change his or her dysfunctional ways of thinking in order to ideate solutions.
Here are some tips on how to accomplish that:
1. Identify the irrational assumptions.
Next time you experience worry, do not let your mind wander and create a Hollywood-worthy screenplay. Worrying about things that have not yet happened will not benefit you in any way. Recognize the real reason behind your worries and whether or not the assumptions you are making are logical.
Friends are helpful for leading you to distinguish between the two, as they can see the situations more clearly than we can for ourselves.
2. Look for a solution, not a problem.
After identifying the problem, do not look for other issues or obstacles in your way. What matters now is what can be fixed, not what can go wrong. Look for ways to deal with the problem, whether the problem is a lack of time, lack of resources or lack of a friendly advice.
Whatever the situation, being proactive and coming up with solutions will alleviate stress and help you clear your mind.
3. Use your anxiety to help you manage upcoming stress.
Once you deal with a situation, you will develop your own methods on how to deal with it. Next time a similar situation occurs, you will not only have less stress, but also confidence in the notion that you can overcome the issue.
Uncomfortable situations make room for personal growth. They say what does not kill you makes you stronger, but truthfully, next time will not kill you because you already dealt with it once.
4. Verify the six-month mark.
If you are not sure whether your worries are unreasonable, use the six-month test. Ask yourself whether the problem about which you are worrying will affect you in the following six months. If it won't, it is probably not a worthy issue over which to lose sleep.
Coming up with answers will make us avoid the unimportant stressors and help us manage the important ones. If we identify the patterns that lead us to anxiety, we will be one step closer to removing the anxious thoughts we feel every day.
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