Anxiety – is it all in the mind?

As a narrative psychologist, the most frequent question I am asked is: what is anxiety and how can I cure it?

Almost everyone I meet has suffered from or is suffering from anxiety. For some people it is transient and linked to specific life events. For others it is a devastating part of their lives.

There are hundreds of books, programmes and tapes about how to ‘cure’ anxiety, but a single factor influences whether or not you will be able to learn to live with it.

Time. If you are not willing to spend time learning about your anxiety, what it is, how it affects your mind and body, how you can do something about it, then it will be difficult to cope with. There really is no quick fix. It’s personal. It takes time to really understand why this is happening.

The core aspect of dealing with anxiety is that the mind believes anything you tell it. Think about it – this is why advertising is so effective – we are bombarded with products and brands over and over until we believe that they are brilliant, and often necessary. What if you did this with your ‘self’? If you tell yourself over and over again that life is hopeless and that you are going to be scared next time you go outside, in a car, or speak in public, then you are training yourself to do just that. You’re creating a bad brand. Instead, tell yourself you are wonderful, that you can do it. Tell yourself over and over again.

Positive affirmations may seem flaky and as if they belong on some new age website, but they do help to retrain your mind. Affirmations, however, work better if they are personalised. Working on a personal programme to deal with anxiety will allow you to develop a plan which is specific to your needs, to your perception of your own problems, and this takes time as you will need to understand them in the first place to deal with them. The crucial aspect in this is that you don’t forget or give up after a couple of days – do positive affirmations every day. Research it. Ask you doctor. Find a therapist. Talk to friends about it. Read about it.

Positive affirmations and their repetition, along with relaxation, are the first stepping stones to dealing with anxiety. Tomorrow morning, when you are looking at yourself in the bathroom mirror, tell yourself ten times that today is going to be a good day. Even if you aren’t suffering from anxiety, do it anyway. Say it out loud. Your mind believes what you tell it. Do it every day for a week. Every time you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror or a shop window, tell yourself it’s a good day, that life is good. Even if it isn’t, it may make you smile, and that’s a start.

Anxiety isn’t all in the mind as it often produces physical symptoms. However, these physical symptoms are linked to negative thinking through our ‘fight or flight’ instincts, so make a start on positivity today.