How to reduce anxiety and be more serene

The challenges of giving up alcohol or moderating your drinking habits can cause periods of anxiety. We all have things, situations and people that ‘trigger’ us, making us angry or upset. In reality, these smaller irritations might have larger themes behind them. For example, irritation from someone leaving a towel on the floor comes from the unstated assumption of being taken for granted. Getting annoyed by friends who are unsympathetic to the challenges of giving up alcohol comes from lack of empathy. These triggers can manifest themselves in anger, and cause us to make retorts or snap at people.

In fact, anger is usually because you are trying to teach someone why their action has made you upset. You fear that they don’t know what they have done wrong, and they will never understand it. However, anger can also cause (and is often caused by) breakdowns in communication. We struggle to articulate strong emotions productively, which can lead to a vicious cycle of frustration.

Identify, deconstruct, plan

If you know what specific event, situation or person makes you upset or anxious, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and anticipate those moments. Work out what you need to be ready for. What might this thing/event/person do to upset you? How will you be frustrated or disappointed? And, ultimately, how will your life be in the end? Make sure your irritation is in perspective. If your child has spilt milk all over the floor, you might be irritated about the mess. You wouldn’t think “having a child is a lifelong punishment in exchange for a few moments of sentimentality”. It can be helpful to contextualise your problem in an overexaggerated, global sense to realise how minor your irritation really is.

In the words of Gloria Gaynor, “I will survive”

Even though these moments are difficult to deal with at the time, we always emerge on the other side. Anxiety is the belief that “if [insert event/thing/person here] happens, I won’t survive”. As we all know, this fear is irrational. Our natural stoicism and wealth of life experience shows us that, while certain events might not be pleasant, we will always survive them. This is why imagining the worst case scenario is sometimes empowering, because we know however it ends, we will emerge on the other side. Looking at the past can also help. Think of the worst thing that ever happened to you, and go through it in sequence. How did you feel at the time? How did you cope afterwards?

What even is calm, anyway?

Weirdly, calm can also be found by reconsidering what it actually means to us. The top four things that people think will bring calm are travel, beauty, status and love. We’ve all been at work and wished we were lounging on a beach in the Bahamas. However, in reality, these things come with lots of frustrations of their own. You can’t get to the Bahamas without battling through airport security and transport delays. Status means responsibility, which can inevitably be stressful. No relationship is totally conflict-free.

So, maybe the key to reducing anxiety is rethinking what actually makes us happy. We can survive by gaining emotional intelligence and resilient thinking. Worse conflicts, diseases and mistakes have occurred before. We can succeed by dismissing our doubts, and defying our anxieties.


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