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6 Tips to Release Anxiety to Feel Calm and Free

Peaceful Man

“I vow to let go of all worries and anxiety in order to be light and free.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

For a long time I have struggled with episodes of anxiety. At times, I’ve gotten a feeling of crushing fear that occurs even in situations that most people consider to be safe.

The first episodes I remember were from my early childhood, when I was so frightened that I used to cry all the way from home to kindergarten because I didn’t want to go, although I apparently had no reason.

As I grew up I learned to hide this anxiety by doing the things I was good at. During high school I discovered that I loved computers, and I felt confident and safe, as I knew that I could achieve something in this field.

When it was time for me to go to college, I decided to study Computer Science. I wanted to build applications, as many as possible. But I soon discovered that school was not like that; long classes of mathematics and physics were ahead of me, classes that had nothing to do with my dream.

During my second year, my anxiety started to strike back. I was feeling exhausted and I had a feeling that everything I did was worthless.

After some months of living with the fear, I decided to do something about it: I took a shot at one of the local software companies. Although there were a lot of obstacles, I was willing to fight them all, as I had the feeling that I was on the right track again.

The next hop was during my fourth and final year when I started to feel that I was stuck in one place.

The tasks I’d been given at work were very similar, and I started to feel bored. But behind this feeling of boredom, my anxiety grew again. Along with this anxiety came a feeling of frustration, because I thought I wasn’t able to change my job.

When I finally decided to go, I found out that the step was too big for me. My body suffered under the huge amount of stress that I had put on myself over the years.

Although at my new workplace the colleagues were friendly and cool, I couldn’t break the feeling of fear. I quit after three weeks, deciding to take a long break to think about my future.

What I didn’t know at the time was that my anxiety would come with me wherever I went.

I needed a brand new way of dealing with it, so I decided to break it once and for all by developing a healthier mindset.

Here are some of the realizations and choices that helped me release my anxiety, along with how I put them into practice:

1. Remember that good enough is the new perfect.

I have always tried to be the best in everything I’ve done, and this has led to a huge amount of anger and stress. I decided that it was okay to let go from time to time. I didn’t have to get nervous for every exam; I didn’t have to win all the time. It was okay just to play the game.

Doing this, I also managed to develop better friendships and relationships. I discovered that my “I want to win everything” attitude was placing everyone on an enemy position.

When you focus less on being the best, you release the pressure you’ve put on yourself.

2. Stop multitasking.

Although this may not seem to have anything to do with anxiety, it’s related. I used to do a lot of things at the same time: work, check my phone, answer an email, make small talk with somebody, and so on.

These interruptions made me lose track of where I was standing, and those times when you feel lost are a great place for anxiety to settle in.

Focus on one thing at a time, and you’ll naturally feel less anxious.

3. Stop avoiding things that you don’t like.

I was always afraid of going to crowded places, such as supermarkets and malls. I’d tell myself, “This time it’s okay not to go. Next time you’ll feel more confident.”

But that never happened. The next time I had to face the situation, my body knew that the previous time, I had let fear win. So instead of dealing with the feelings in one situation, I had to deal with feelings from two.

Now, instead of avoiding things, I always say to myself when I am scared: “This is the best time to face my fear! Bring it on!”

Don’t hide from the unavoidable situations that make you anxious; little by little, condition yourself to work through your feelings.

4. Find a passion that calms you.

I noticed that in periods of great stress I seemed to have nothing to enjoy. Friends were telling me to take a day off or do something I like, but I was having a hard time finding things I liked.

During these days I’d sit in by bed, turning from one side to another, and then return to work more tired than I was when I left.

One day I remembered that, as a kid, I had a dream of running every morning before everybody woke up.

After a month of daily runs I can say that I feel awesome. Whenever I feel anxious I picture myself running, take a few deep breaths, and I calm myself down instantly.

5. Focus on the things that you can control.

In the past, I often complained about not feeling well. I was convinced that I was ill, even though I had lots of medical tests all stating that I was healthy. The symptoms that I encountered were dizziness, lightheadedness, and tensions all over my body.

As frightening as these were at the time, I realized that it was my obsession with control that was causing them. I was always asking myself: “Am I feeling well?“

In worrying about the symptom, it became real.

I’ve learned that I cannot control my body. I can only control my thoughts—but my thoughts directly influence how I feel physically. Now and then when I feel dizzy, I take a moment to ask myself, “Am I causing this by worrying?”

6. See anxiety as an opportunity.

In retrospect, I see that anxiety was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. It was when I felt anxious that I knew that I had to make changes—with my approach to my work, my passions, and my mindset.

Anxiety goes away only when we learn what it’s teaching us. That is when we can move on.

Photo by Alan Cleaver

Avatar of Andrei Corovei

About Andrei Corovei

Andrei is a passionate software engineer from Cluj Napoca. In his free time,  he loves to go for a run or for a long bicycle ride. He is an enthusiastic beginner in the practice of meditation and NLP relaxation exercises. You can follow him on andreicorovei.blogspot.com.

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  • http://upliftedliving.com/ Meg Sylvia

    This is great, Andrei! “Good enough is the new perfect” is the most wonderful reminder. Perfectionism really does cause anxiety, and after dealing with my own episodes of anxiety similar to yours, I’ve come to the exact same conclusions!

  • Ben

    Thanks

  • Nicky

    Thank you for this post :) I can relate to your feelings of anxiety and I’m happy you’ve found ways to deal with them. I will definitely try to follow some of your advice!

  • kk

    I agree on no 1..but i hated it.. i feel better when working very hard..

  • Andrei

    Meg, thank you for your thoughts! ^^ I think that this is one of the most important lessons I learned recently; and this is why I added it first.

  • Andrei

    I’m glad you like it! I really hope that they will for you as well :D

  • Andrei

    Your thoughts are not far away from mine. I was taught from a young age that the way to succeed in life is by being humble and working hard. I still believe that
    way, but there are situations in which I decide to let go and just be there.
    For example during board games with my friends, I was pissing them off by always
    wanting to win. And if I lost, I took the defeat so hard that I needed an hour
    or two to chill down. Now, I just play for the sake of the game and I’m having
    much more fun ^^. Don’t get me wrong, I still work hard, but I consciously try
    to keep a balance in my efforts.

  • Valentina

    Buna Andrei!
    Nu stiam ca scriu si romani aici. Abia dupa ce am citit articolul scris de tine am vazut numele si orasul. Oricum, vroiam sa iti spun ca ceea ce ai scris se potriveste perfect pentru mine. Si eu ma zbat in stari de anxietate si panica la locul de munca. Desi fac ceea ce imi place si zic eu, mi se potriveste, primii ani de munca au fost infioratori, plini de violenta verbala si am ramas cu mari sechele zic eu. Acum lucrez cu oameni amabili dar….anxietatea ma urmareste, exact cum ziceai tu! Am sa recitesc articolul tau cand voi simti nevoia, m-a ajutat si iti multumesc!

  • Daria Constantinescu

    Romanian power! Thanks for the article. Graduate school is a whole new level of stress for me.

  • http://everythingiswithin.com/blog/ Robert

    I really like the points you mentioned to control anxiety – especially #5: “Focus on the things that you can control”

    People often try to control every little bit of their life. This not only creates a lot of unnecessary stress, but it is simply impossible.

    In reality, there are only 3 things we can control in our life:

    #1: Our thoughts
    #2: Our mental images – things we visualize in our heads
    #3: The we we react to events – the actions we take

    And those 3 things determine our ENTIRE life – if we are happy or depressed, if we experience lack or abundance, the quality of our relationships, our health…

    Everyone can learn to control those 3 things I mentioned above – it is just a matter of practice and by doing so, we no longer need to worry about our finances, health, workplace… and about 1000 other things.

  • Dancing Mandy

    perfect timing, perfect post. I have crazy body tension that i’ve been trying to quash with a diet, exercise, eating right, etc. While all of this is great, all of the external factors I try to control aren’t the root problem, and actually may be exacerbating it with my need to control my body sensations. Thank you.

  • Greg

    Thanks for posting Andrei, this was huge for me as I too used to cry when going to nursery and a generally shy anxious child. Later in life i find myself even more anxious and push and push myself until i was stressed and then wonder why. Anxiety is a great teacher and these are great tips i especially like the comment “Now and then when I feel dizzy, I take a moment to ask myself, “Am I causing this by worrying?”… its just a trick and sometimes it still gets me.

  • RandyH

    What a great story of your success Andrei! I have to agree that dealing with anxiety is probably the best thing that happened to me as well…as I result I lead a life filled with mindfulness, peace, compassion, exercise and meditation. If I hadn’t been forced to find ways to deal with my anxiety who knows where I’d be today! Great article and thanks for sharing! Peace…

  • LookingForward

    Thank you very much for this post. I have been having issues with anxiety for about a year now. I get panic attacks from it. I am going to try your steps. Its good to know that I am not alone and that others have the same issues that I have. Thank you~

  • Luca Samson

    Nice post Andrei!

    I agree with No. 1 but i believe there are situations when you do need to work you’re ass off and buckle down to get the job done and done right.

    But not every situation is like this and, as you’ve mentioned, you do need to take time for yourself to relax. Sometimes it is best just to get the job done and not worry over perfecting it.

    Cheers

  • http://www.pinchmeliving.com/ Bernadette @ PinchMeLiving.com

    As a former highly anxious perfectionist, I love the message that good enough is the new perfect! It’s also great wisdom for people with anxiety to see that the feeling of anxiety can actually be an access point for growth, transformation and breakthrough. My anxiety over many years, quiet and pervading, ending up being my feeling guidance system calling me into what I most needed to understand about myself and life, and where I most needed to look in order to evolve in myself, in my life and in my work. Thanks for this post Andrei! Bernadette :)

  • rol

    Thanks for your post. It was like reading my mind. Do you have any technique sugestion to practically reduce the need to win or to decrease the self pressure and self judgemend i do to myself to always do the right things and never fail?

  • Anne Marie Horan

    Thank you. I get tremendouuuuuus anxiety. I need this.

  • Andrei

    Rol,
    The best advice I can give you is to learn to meditate or practice relaxation exercises. With these exercises you will learn to practice calm and patience and you will accept that everything that happens (either good or bad) is a lesson from which you can learn.

    If you don’t have time to practice, take 5 minutes every day to read a tinybuddha article. It really did the trick for me. Most of the articles are filled with positive ideas and by reading them I always feel calmer and happier.

  • Andrei

    Bernadette, it took me a lot of time and hustling to understand that anxiety is not here to kill me but to guide me. Thank you for your thoughts.

  • Andrei

    Luca, that was my point exactly. There are times when you have to work hard and there are times when you can just let go. The whole thing is to learn how to balance your time between these two situations.

  • Andrei

    You are certainly not alone! I hope my tips will work for you :D.

  • Andrei

    Thank you Randy! I’m very happy that you managed to turn anxiety into a positive thing and I really hope that everyone suffering of anxiety will be able to do this as well.

  • Andrei

    I had this problem because I was always disatisfied with how I felt. There was a continuous battle between me and my body. One day I decided to make my body my friend and from that point on all those strange feelings were gone.

  • Andrei

    I’m glad you liked it! And I’m sure that with patience and calm you will succeed in your new challange ^^. Peace!

  • Andrei

    Salut Valentina,

    Ma bucur foarte mult ca ti-a placut aricolul si sper sa te ajute sfaturile mele. Cat despre trecut, el cred ca ramane pe langa noi cata vreme vrem noi sa-l tinem. Eu ma gandesc tot timpul ca azi e o zi complet noua, in care am ocazia sa fac lucrurile altfel decat atunci cand nu mi-au placut. “Ce-a fost a fost” cum zicem noi romanii.

    Ganduri bune! ^^

  • Andrei

    You are welcome!

  • growthguided

    “What I didn’t know at the time was that my anxiety would come with me wherever I went.”

    Isn’t that just the bottomline truth of it all! Every where you go, there you are. Considering we are the ones who bring anxiety upon ourselves, it is a had thing to take a vacation from!

    Thank you for the great post!

  • Abhishek Misra

    Thanks a lot for this article,Andrei……

  • Diana Yaruro

    Hi Andrei,
    I have had similar experiences as you. I get paralized by fear at times and my anxiety is so bad that I cant barely sleep. I am still learning to cope and change my negative thinking. Thank you for your post, it was very helpful :)

  • DaVinzZie

    My first reaction here on Tiny Buddha.
    I am having anxiety for a big part of my life. After having some heavy attacks I am on some medication that helps me to function in “all day life”.
    Your article is like a mirror!
    What helped me a lot was “being the watcher”. Watch yourself and the others, don’t react on every situaton, watch! Watch, and let go.

    Thanks for the article!

  • riri

    Thank you so much! anxiety is being a huge part of our lives lately, i am going through this phase i wanted to run though i am not waking early enough i lack motivation i will do my best :)

  • Safina Rose

    wow I can really relate to this!
    & the tips are so helpful! Thank you!!

  • Rol

    Thanks for the advice and your time. I will take it. Congratulations for this post

  • DrOmada

    Points I like the best:
    3. Stop avoiding things that you don’t like. and
    5. Focus on the things that you can control.
    I from my experience know that avoidance breeds more avoidance and until you take the stance (though uncomfortable) of facing your fears head on, you remain a victim of your anxiety.
    Also learning not to focus on bodily symptoms after being cleared that nothing is wrong is so important. Anxiety through its symptoms makes one feel like you have so much more going on that is actually the case. Trusting that you are okay and not reading meaning and danger into every symptom is liberating. Like you said, it all beigns with the way we think and our mindset. Thanks for this great article!

  • http://emiliciastyle.blogspot.co.uk/ Emily

    Fantastic article! Thank you sharing

  • Christina

    I think i just had a ah-ha moment, especially number 5!!!!!!

  • Gabriel

    Thank You, Andrei! Much love!

  • Diana

    Thank you for this. I felt as if you were writing about me. Feels great knowing someone else went through it and that the solution is actually very simple. :) Take care and God bless.

  • Annie May

    Right now, you are my idol! Not only because of how you tamed your anxiety, but also am I a software developer, at least I want to be. I struggled a long time with my graduation work because of anxiety and low self-esteem. I thought, I failed as a student of computer science and that everything was for nothing. I wanted to quit everything which is basically my first reaction on stress. Even after I quitted my previous job as a IT support for the sake of finishing my studies, it took me more than three months to finish. I am very confident when I’m alone and surrounded by people who I know but as soon as I step into a new job interview for the position of junior developer, everything comes back and I just want to run away. And of course I am still unemployed but I hope I can accomplish that what you did.

  • Shelby Claridy

    This was amazing. I’m 17 years old and have been suffering from a rare but severe form of anxiety, depression, panic disorder and mild psychosis for the past two years. I want to be an elementary school teacher and I need to learn how to cope with my problems. I agree with all 6 steps, especially the one about finding a release. My release is writing and I literally feel like I have meditated after I finish a few pages in my notebook. But anyways, thank you for sharing this. It made me extra happy to know that I’m not the only one!

  • Robin Bernstein

    This is something I suffer with daily and am really trying to figure out. I also get the dizzy, lightheaded, feeling ill thing. It means something is not right with me. Sometimes it’s nerves or anticipation. So much of what you said I can relate to, even the Kindergarten story. I used to hold onto the door nob and cry. I need to free my mind but am not there yet. I know I can’t make everything perfect, but have not been able to overcome yet. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. Thanks.

  • tintin khan

    Gr8 artical Indeed ..
    I am really feeling anxious now a days. The situation at my country isn’t well and when ever i need news paper it causes huge tension,anxiety and pain in my head . I also can’t listen to songs and my memory getting very weak. Although i am a good at studies and i am an under graduate engineering student and last 2 semester not going well . I haven’t consult a doctor yet .Plz help me.