5 Easy Steps to Treat Generalized Anxiety (Fast!)

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If you’re struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, then you’d probably want to know if it can be cured.

In this article, I’ll explain what generalized anxiety is and give you 5 powerful tips to treat generalized anxiety and will give you quick results.

The best part? You’ll learn how to worry significantly less!

Let’s get started!

What is Generalized Anxiety?

Before I give you practical tips on how to ease your generalized anxiety, it’s important to understand what it actually is.

So… what is generalized anxiety?

People with GAD (generalized anxiety) get anxious when they are faced with a trigger for their worries.

But what is the most common trigger?

Uncertainty.

When you struggle with GAD, you get anxious whenever there is uncertainty in a situation or if you are not 100% sure about something. 

But because almost everything in life is uncertain (which is beautiful by the way), you probably always have something to worry about!

People who struggle with generalized anxiety are therefore often living in their heads and worrying about everyday life. Things that seem ordinary and not stressful to others, are THE things people with GAD worry about.

They worry about their current life (paying the bills, what to wear or what to say) or hypothetical situations (What if I have to plan a party but no one will attend? What if I get sick 10 years from now?)

Since you have little control over the first type of worry, and almost no control over the last one… you can see that there is a lot of uncertainty.

And people with GAD are extremely intolerant of uncertainty. That’s the reason why they often make excessive plans, long to-do lists, and try to stay extremely productive to give themselves a false sense of control.

It’s because they are feeling on edge and “feel” they have to do something or stay in control to ease their feelings of anxiety. This results in lots of: “I should do X”
and self-criticism.

Signs and Symptoms of GAD

The primary symptom of a generalized anxiety disorder is worry. And the worry creates anxiety, because your mind thinks you are in danger. Therefore, your threat response is always on, but running in the background most of the time.

But how do you know if it is just “worry” or “generalized anxiety”? 

Worrying is completely normal when you have big problems to deal with, like major life changes or financial problems. It is also completely normal if you have to prepare for something like a test, an exam or an activity where you have to perform.

But the worry that comes from Generalized Anxiety is: excessive, intrusive, presistent and disruptive. 

It interferes with your daily life in such a way that you feel exhausted and stressed about everyday things. According to WebMB, if you struggle with GAD you might find yourself in the following symptoms:

  • Worrying excessively about everyday things
  • Finding it hard to control your worries
  • You know that you worry more than you should
  • Feeling on edge and restless most of the day
  • Feeling iritable
  • Having trouble falling asleep
  • Finding it extremely hard to tolerate uncertainty and the future

The signs are often the result of a cortisol problem and not an adrenaline problem. Cortisol helps you stay on edge, whereas adrenaline helps you to quickly get a burst of energy to fight or flight the perceived danger.

Because GAD is less intense and is a low-level feeling of anxiety, it’s more of a cortisol problem.

Now you know what Generalized Anxiety is, it’s time to give you the 5 practical tips to ease your GAD!

Step #1: Learn more about Generalized Anxiety

Worry is the core symptom of a Generalized Anxiety Disorder. People with GAD don’t just worry about the big problems in life, but also about the small (for others unimportant) things as well. This continuous worry creates a lot of stress on the body, which is why people with GAD live in a constant state of (low-level) stress.

But just knowing this, won’t be enough to free yourself from GAD.

Here’s why:

Generalized Anxiety is a form of anxiety that is different from other forms of anxiety, as there is no specific phobia to work with. Therefore you need to learn more about what GAD is and specifically the following:

  • What is anxiety in general? What is it and what is the purpose of it?
  • What is GAD really?
  • What are the characteristics and symptoms of GAD?
  • What are certain tools to ease my GAD?
  • What triggers my GAD?

Once you understand GAD and how it manifests in your life, then you know what you are dealing with and can start to solve it. There is a reason why they say “Awareness is the first step to change.”

Step #2: Become Aware of your Worries

There is a specific trigger that causes people with GAD to become anxious: uncertainty

People in general are bad at handling uncertainty, but people with GAD find it even more difficult. They worry about almost everything in life, because almost anything in life is uncertain.

Planning parties, going on holiday, visiting someone, not knowing what to wear, financial problems… the list can go on forever.

If you struggle with GAD, you are someone who worries excessively. And it is the worry that makes you feel anxious, as your mind starts to believe you are in danger.

And to manage your worry, you first have to become a master at becoming aware of it. The best way to recognize and become aware of your worries is to begin writing them down in a worry diary. This is what I personally did at the peak of my GAD in 2020. 

Everytime I started to worry and felt anxious, I grabed my Notes App and wrote down everything I was worrying about in a short paragraph.

Doing this is a great way (and first step!) to get the worry out of your head and create more mental space.

But Wouter? What can those worries be? I’ve worried for so long that I no longer even recognize them!

Well, they almost always start with “What-if” followed by something bad or catastrophic.

Now I want to ask you to become aware of one worry right now.

Did it start with what if?

It probably did!

Now it is time for step #3!

Step #3: Rethink Worry

Most people who struggle with GAD believe that worrying is very useful. You maybe know that you are doing it too much and that it drains your energy… but somehow, you still believe that it is actually helpful in some way.

As long as you believe that worrying helps you to overcome your problems or eliminates uncertainty, you won’t stop worrying.

Worry is often misperceived as being productive. People with GAD believe that when they worry, they solve the problem they are dealing with. They believe they are in a problem-solving mode, while the opposite is true.

When you worry, you are going over the problem in your head so many times that you get exhausted… while problem-solving is something that is active! It means identifying your “problem” and coming up with a plan to find a solution.

To help you with overcoming your habit to worry, I found the following strategies very useful:

Implement Worry Minutes

Because I often found myself worrying for most of the day, I set aside 10 minutes a day to worry. In those 10 worry minutes, I wrote down all my worries in my Notes App and gave myself permission to worry. But when the minutes were over, I didn’t allow myself to worry anymore (I know how difficult it is to stop worrying!) and I told myself that the next day at lunch I would worry about it. I recommend doing this during lunch, because if you do it later in the day… you might find it difficult to fall asleep.

Problem-solving instead of worrying

When I found myself worrying a lot, I told myself to stop and started to write down my worry in one sentence. I looked at it objectively and told myself to come up with at least 1-3 possible things I could DO to solve the problem I dealt with. Instead of going over the worry several times a day and feeling exhausted as a result… I focused on problem-solving and carrying out a solution. 

Becoming comfortable with uncertainty

One of the best strategies to ease your generalized anxiety is to learn how to become comfortable with uncertainty. Because people who struggle with GAD find it very difficult to deal with uncertainty, they have to learn how to be more comfortable with it.

It essentially means becoming more tolerant to it.

How do you do this?

By doing things that make you uncertain, like not reading reviews before you go to the cinema, not spending days figuring things out for something unimportant, not making excessive to-do lists and not being productive the entire day.

Doing this will make you feel uncomfortable and anxious for a while, as there is more uncertainty in your life. But that’s a good sign!

You probably want to worry more and believe things are not going well for you, but it means you’ve increased the uncertainty in your life and now only have to practice being comfortable with it.

You have to accept the uncertainty and slight increase in anxiety… which brings me to the next step.

Step #4: Practice Acceptance

When you start doing things that make you more uncertain, you’ll notice that your anxiety increases a little.

Why? Because you are doing the opposite of what you were used to do: worrying excessively and making plans.

But feeling more anxious is not a bad thing, because it is (1) temporary and (2) you are going through your anxiety and start facing it. It means you are starting to face your fears and get over them.

Yes… the only way is through.

The moment you accept your anxiety and uncertainty and no longer fight your feelings, you’ll become more comfortable with it. My clients use the PAU Response (Point, Allow and Use) to help them accept their anxiety.  

You can download the FREE PDF version here.

If you notice that you begin to worry more while embracing more uncertainty, use the tips from step #3: writing down your worries and practising problem-solving.

When you combine those tactics with accepting your anxious feelings, instead of fighting them… you’ll notice that the anxiety will decrease in intensity.

Now you are expanding your tolerance for uncertainty.

Step #5: Rebalance your nervous system

Last, it is very important to rebalance your nervous system. The more you worry, the more stress your body has to deal with and the more prone to stress it will become. And the more prone it will become, the more likely you are to worry.

This is a vicious cycle that you have to break.

To do this you have to engage your parasympathetic nervous system more: the rest and digest nervous system. On the other hand, you have to decrease the activation of your sympathetic nervous system: the fight or flight response.

Reducing the activation of the sympathetic nervous system begins by learning how to work with anxiety, coping in new ways, learning how to accept it (this doesn’t mean being OK with it!) and stopping with fighting your anxiety all the time.

On the other hand, engaging your parasympathetic nervous system is done by doing things like:

  • Exercising
  • Practicing yoga
  • Meditation
  • Better sleep
  • Relaxing activities like massage, sauna or a warm bath
  • Breathwork
  • And proper nutrition.


Takeaway

I hope you gained a better understanding of what a Generalized Anxiety Disorder is and what you can do to break free from the cycle of worry. Generalized anxiety is exhausting, as you probably know, and overcoming it takes practice and discomfort. Keep practising tolerating uncertainty. It’s like going to the gym, which also takes practice!

But you can do it.

When you learn more about what GAD is, when you rethink the usefulness of worry and rebalance your nervous system to make your body less prone to stress… you can ease your Generalized Anxiety. 

If you want to learn more about freeing yourself from anxiety, then watch my FREE limited-time training down below.

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Author: Wouter Manders

Wouter is a mindset coach from The Netherlands. For many years he suffered from depression and anxiety. It gave him the motivation to coach people on overcoming their anxiety, out of first hand experience. With more than 6000 blog visitors a month he helps many people on their road to having less anxiety.

About Wouter

Wouter is a mindset coach from The Netherlands. For many years he suffered from depression and anxiety. It gave him the motivation to coach people on freeing themselves from anxiety. With more than 6000 blog visitors a month he helps many people on their journey towards less anxiety.

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