We’ve all felt anxious at some point in our lives. Anxiety is that jittery feeling you get before something big happens, like a first date, a job interview, or moving to a new house. Your palms sweat, your heart beats fast, and you feel like there’s a ball of lead in your gut.
But then, you might have a hard time falling asleep, relaxing, or concentrating because your thoughts are racing. Your stomach might be too upset to eat, or you might eat too much. You might cry more or have an overwhelming desire to seek reassurance from someone.
For highly sensitive people, we tend to be creative and have active minds. However, the downside is this means we’re more vulnerable to anxiety. Our minds can easily conjure up all kinds of negative fantasies that fuel our anxiety and make it worse.
Because of a biological difference in our nervous system, we absorb more stimulation from our environment — like noise, small details that others miss, and even other people’s emotions — which can lead us to feel overwhelmed.
Remember these 10 things when you feel anxious:
1. Your anxiety is just one part of the package.
Being highly sensitive is a package deal — you get the bad with the good. Don’t get down on yourself for being who you are. Think about all the good things that come with being sensitive: You may be more creative and considerate, have more empathy for others, notice things that others miss, and learn new things quickly.
2. Like the weather, feelings change.
The way you feel right now will not be the way you feel in five minutes, five hours, five days, or five years from now. Feelings are only temporary, and like today’s forecast, they change quickly. Like all things eventually do, those scared, anxious, lead-in-your-gut feelings will pass. “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world — not even our troubles,” said actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin.
3. Talk to someone.
Anxiety can be a lonely feeling, and loneliness increases anxiety — what a terrible cycle! Talk to someone you trust about the feelings or situation you’re dealing with. Just getting the feelings out might make you feel better, plus having to explain your fears to someone else might help you examine if they’re realistic or not.
4. Set clearer boundaries in your relationships.
If your relationships are making you anxious, get rid of the source of your anxiety by setting firmer boundaries or even letting some relationships go. Do it, and don’t feel bad about it.
5. Don’t run away from what’s scaring you.
Avoiding the situation or person who’s causing your anxiety will only make your anxiety worse in the long run. Gather your courage to face the problem head-on. Remind yourself it’s only fear, and you will get through it.
6. You can’t control what happens in life, but you can control (or learn tools to control) how you react.
Dr. Hans Selye, a physician who is considered the “father” of the field of stress research, writes, “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”
7. Your anxiety doesn’t actually accomplish anything.
It wastes time and doesn’t get you any closer to your life’s goals. “Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far,” writes author Jodi Picoult.
8. Try relaxation techniques.
Inhale deeply, hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale. Brew a cup of chamomile tea. Exercise vigorously — anxiety floods your body with adrenaline, and aerobic exercise burns off adrenaline. Take a warm bath, listen to relaxing music, and schedule a massage for later. Distract yourself by reading, surfing the internet, or watching Netflix.
9. Keep things in perspective.
Avoid the temptation to make the situation bigger in your mind than it really is. Dr. Steve Maraboli, author and behavioral science academic, writes, “I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety and fear.”
10. It’s really going to be OK.
Author and motivational speaker Danielle LaPorte writes, “P.S. You’re not going to die. Here’s the white-hot truth: if you go bankrupt, you’ll still be OK. If you lose the gig, the lover, the house, you’ll still be OK. If you sing off-key, get beat by the competition, have your heart shattered, get fired…it’s not going to kill you. Ask anyone who’s been through it.”