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Anxiety

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The stress and worry associated with anxiety can feel uncomfortable as well as complicate an ability to focus. While everyone experiences stress from time to time, it is helpful to look at its root causes and have strategies and resources in place to manage it. 

Strong anxiety management skills allow you to:

  • Harness energy to focus and concentrate
  • Enjoy greater ease and presence
  • Problem solve

Questions for Reflection

  • Does your anxiety cause you to have a stomachache, shortness of breath or dizziness?
  • Does your anxiety cause insomnia, mood swings or lethargy?
  • Does your anxiety cause you to call in sick to avoid stressful events or avoid certain individuals?
  • Does your anxiety prevent you from doing your best on assessments?

Basic Strategies to Try

  • Practice observing your emotions. Use meditation practices to observe what has triggered your anxiety, and label these thoughts.  Regularly identifying your feelings and accepting your emotions can help to decrease anxiety.
  • Create a List: Make a list of things that make you anxious.  Now take your list of things that you created above and replace them with rational self-script alternatives. 
  • You may wish to keep a notebook handy to jot down your thoughts about what is causing your stress/anxiety as these thoughts arise throughout the day.  Once you recognize your triggers of what is causing your anxiety, return to these rational self-scripts to re-imagine alternative ways to cope with your feelings.  
  • Try the following  three exercises taken from Be Calm: Proven Techniques to Stop Anxiety Now, by Dr. Jill Weber.

Exercise I

Write what you expect to happen if you intentionally expose yourself to something that triggers your anxiety.  Call to mind your worst-case scenario:  all the difficult thoughts, feelings, or behaviors you imagine would happen if this situation were to happen.  Perhaps you believe you would pass out, throw-up, humiliate yourself, etc.  Be as specific as possible.

Exercise II

Write the best-case scenario of what could occur if you managed your panic or anxiety.  In this exercise, you effectively cope and manage whatever thoughts, feelings, or behaviors arise. Despite your discomfort, you stay in the scenario, pushing through the discomfort.  What would be the result?  How would you feel about yourself then?  Imagine feelings: good, strong, capable and even proud.

Exercise III

Imagine facing an anxiety- producing situation.  Describe the:

  • Worst outcome__________________________
  • Best outcome___________________________
  • Likely outcome___________________________

Imagine the worst outcome comes true; would it still matter in:

  • 1 week?______________________
  • 1 month?______________________
  • 1 year?_______________________

Now, reconcile and reflect on the impact.  What is the significance of the worst outcome happening over time? Often, the impact over time is of little consequence: This is what we hope that you will recognize.

Questions about how to implement these strategies? 

Email your question to stanfordlearninglab@lists.stanford.edu or attend one of our drop-in sessions.

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