Fortitude, Temperance

If You Struggle With Anxiety

Some advice for anxiety is literally non-advice. Are there concrete steps for dealing with anxiety? 

An article at a famous news outlet recently stated

If you worry about the fact that you worry so much, take a deep breath: We have some good news. Researchers have found that people with anxiety often have higher intelligence.

Having a high IQ and wondering at a faster pace why things often go poorly for you or why other people have life better is not a pleasant experience or GAD wouldn’t be considered a disorder. I’m neither a doctor nor a psychologist, so I can’t treat or diagnose a disease, but I can say what I do when I have anxiety or a non-productive orientation toward the future.  

I appreciate journalistic attempts to draw attention to new research, but the why this article is written seems to be designed to encourage unhappy people to think they are stuck that way. The attitude that this rhetoric can feed into is one of learned helplessness or the pride associated with being overly clever.

If you struggle with anxiety, you don’t need to feel smarter. You want to be happy and less anxious. 

I’ll write elsewhere why the advice above can’t even be extracted from the study in the first place. 

But here I want to offer what I do to deal with my anxiety:

  1. Productive Action
    When I’m anxious about something and I immerse myself in my responsibilities, then I feel better when several tasks are complete. I also find that going for a walk, hitting the gym, building a thing, or cooking a meal can help. What I often try not to do until I conquer anxiety is make any important decisions so that I don’t make them out of desperation. The point of this is to distract yourself and build confidence. With confidence (a habit of hope for success), you don’t need anxiety. 
  2. Meditation
    Meditation, in the sense I mean here, is sitting in silence and considering your sensations and thoughts from a non-judgmental point of view. Set a timer and do this for a specific amount of time (no more than 5 minutes really). The focus is to get a picture of what thoughts keep popping into your mind. I give some tips for meditation here.
  3. Reasoning
    A simple tool for dealing with anxiety once you sat in silence and gotten a handle on the fact that right now, in the state you’re in you feel anxious, I recommend actually reasoning with the beliefs you have which make you anxious. But you’ve got to reason with them in order to refute them and then remind yourself that those beliefs are false. I explain how to do this here and here.
  4. Doctor
    If you have legitimate Generalized Anxiety Disorder, then you should go to a doctor and get some help. Check here for some guidelines for what to do if you struggle with crippling anxiety.

Basically, if you struggle with anxiety try to develop good habits (virtues). The two virtues that are perhaps most related to overcoming anxiety are self-mastery (enkrateia) and confidence

One Commnet on “If You Struggle With Anxiety

  1. I know you are (in part) trying to keep this related specifically to virtue traditions in general and not simply Christian ones, but I would add the discipline of prayer and supplication that reorients us to our already-having-everything-we-truly-need state in Christ. (Phil 4:3-7)

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