As an anxious person, I’m constantly reading, listening, and learning from mental health gurus. I’m a firm believer in being proactive to overcome anxious feelings, and that’s why the TEDTalkx below hit home. In this talk given by University of Cambridge researcher Olivia Remes at TEDxUHasselt, entitled “How to cope with anxiety,” she empowers listeners to take control of their own anxiety by adopting these three coping strategies.
Take a listen to the 15-minute video below – or, if you’re searching for the tldr version, keep reading below.
Do things badly.
If you’re willing to do something badly, you won’t waste all of that time worrying about getting started. Think about how many times you’ve been paralyzed with anxiety before starting something, like working on a big project, trying out a new hobby, or studying. It’s never the right time, or you’re never ready, or you’re never confident that you’ll do well. Skip that whole anxiety stage, and just start!
As Remes explains, “All too often we aim for perfection, but never end up doing anything, because the standards that we set for ourselves are too high.” This causes us to doubt ourselves, and ditch our original plan or idea altogether – a habit that is horrible for those with anxiety. By dreaming of but never starting things, we lose that sense of control over our own lives. It’s that same loss of control that causes anxiety.
And by the way, “When you look back, you’ll realize, more often than not, that actually it’s not that bad,” Remes points out.
People with anxiety are often experts at beating themselves up about perceived mistakes they’ve made or shortcomings they possess. How exhausting is that? Remes explains that the best ways to cope with anxiety is to forgive yourself.
“If you had a panic attack and are embarrassed about it, forgive yourself,” Remes says. “If you wanted to talk to someone but couldn’t muster up the courage, don’t worry about it! Let it go.” By constantly forgiving yourself for things, whether they happened 10 years ago or 10 minutes ago, you’ll develop compassion and self-love. Both of these things are kryptonite for anxiety.
Do something with someone else in mind.
Remes states her last point very matter-of-factly: “We cannot be fully happy until we know that someone else needs us – that someone else depends on our accomplishments, or on the love that we have to share.” She explains that people who do not engage in activities with someone else in mind are at a greater risk for poor mental health.
One of the very best ways to cope with anxiety is to simply get outside yourself and do something for others. This could be anything from helping a friend through a tough time or volunteering in your community. As it turns out, selflessness, empathy, and generosity can do wonders for anxiety.