Over the past few weeks I’ve had many conversations with people about the inauguration of the new President and the recent actions taken by his administration, and there appears to be a common thread in those conversation. Whether they are supporters of the new administration or not it seems that in this time of transition, many people are experiencing some worries about how changes in Washington, DC. will affect them. I’m not going to get into politics, but I think this brings up something that is worth addressing, the anxiety that is often triggered by change.
Change, whether big or small, good or bad, individual or global, personal or professional, can lead to heightened feelings of anxiety for many people. Most often that anxiety is manageable but sometimes people may struggle with knowing how to manage it. When anxiety gets overwhelming or is difficult to manage it can affect us both emotionally and physically. It can cause us to experience feelings of fear, doubt or insecurity. These can lead to avoidance or inaction, which can in turn lead to increased anxiety. In terms of its physical effects, anxiety has been associated with short term effects like headaches, muscle tension or difficulty sleeping, as well as long term effects including weakened a immune system, decreased cardiovascular health and increased gastrointestinal distress.
Here are few tips for how to manage anxiety about change.
Get organized – disorganization can make things feel out of control and provoke anxiety, even when the disorganization is related to something positive (i.e.: getting packed and ready for a vacation). Creating organization and planning around what makes you anxious can make those things feel less overwhelming and more manageable.
Write it right out of you head – write down the thoughts you are having and the fears/worries you are experiencing related to those thoughts. Then write down how likely it is fore those fears/worries to come true. You’re likely to find that there is often a fairly low likelihood of those fears coming true. As an added bonus, this process can also help you create a plan for how to manage your anxiety by helping you identify concrete ideas for how to counteract those anxiety provoking thoughts.
Take a mini mental vacation – Take some time to give your mind a break by doing something that you enjoy and that relaxes you. You could read a book, watch a movie, meet up with a friend, do some knitting/crafting, work out, etc. These are all good options if they are positive and relaxing activities for you (in other words, don’t do something that is “supposed” to be relaxing for that others think is relaxing, but that you don’t enjoy or with which you don’t feel comfortable). This give you a chance for your mind and body to relax and refuel on emotional energy and prepare to address the anxiety. Remember, this is a mini mental vacation, not something to do to constantly avoid dealing with your anxiety.
These are just a few tips for managing normal feelings of anxiety when they feel like they are getting to be just a bit overwhelming. Remember that we all experience anxiety to varying degrees. It’s normal and natural to experience some level of anxiety about different things. Mild anxiety can even be useful because ti can be part of how our bodies and minds motivate us to act on somethings.
However, when anxiety start to get in the way of your ability o get through your day or to meet your commitments, then it may be shifting from “regular” anxiety to more problematic anxiety that could even signal the emergence of an anxiety disorder. If you are concerned that you are having ongoing difficulty managing anxiety or that anxiety is getting in the way of your ability to live the life you wan to live, ask for help. You can start by talking to a trusted friend or family member or contact a therapist you can help you identify if what you are experiencing goes beyond “regular” anxiety and how to manage it.