Published On: May 17, 2017
Updated On: November 3, 2023
Anxiety is keeping us alive right now, yet we often want to know how to get rid of it. It’s not as much of a conundrum as you might think. The key is separating the good anxiety from the bad anxiety. You need the kind that keeps you alive and functioning, but you can reduce the rest.
There are many research-backed methods of reducing the prevalence of anxiety in your life. Nonetheless, this is sometimes different than “getting rid of it.”
When people want to “get rid of anxiety,” they often ascribe different meanings to the phrase, such as:
The first half of the above solutions are viable; the second half is not. In this sense anxiety is not something to “get rid of.”
Anxiety might always be with you, and that’s OK. Having it is normal and healthy. It’s part of our evolutionary make up, a leftover instinct from when our ancestors were at the mercy of wild animals that could kill them in an instant.
“Anxiety keeps us alive,” said Daryl Cioffi, a therapist and professor of neuropsychology. “It’s what stops us from crossing the street without looking or walking down a dark street and not looking at our surroundings.”
Besides aiding us in staying physically intact, anxiety is a practical emotion that helps us be responsible. If you have a deadline for work, you might experience a little anxiety about missing it. It will motivate you to get the work done on time. Or maybe you have kids and worry about their safety. This is simply part of being a responsible parent.
Anxiety is also useful in helping us determine what psychological issues we need to address. Think of how physical pain tells us which areas of our body need attention and care. Anxiety is similar.
“If fear and anxiety are like physical pain, then their natural purpose must be to call your attention to the deeper emotional and mental wounds that cause them,” said anxiety expert Dr. Friedemann Schaub, Ph.D.
Once anxiety becomes intense to the point of making you suffer and inhibiting the fullness of your life, it’s no longer useful. Here are some examples of what this type of anxiety can do to you:
Rather than focusing on rational issues such as childcare and deadlines, these types of anxieties often cause people to ruminate on a series of irrational fears, including:
Here are some research-backed methods you can use to reduce or get rid of the negative aspects of anxiety in your life:
Psychotherapy: Changing Your Thinking to Reduce Anxiety
There is clinical evidence for some forms of psychotherapy being able to reduce burdensome symptoms of anxiety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [CBT] has been particularly effective because it spends a lot of time targeting the negative beliefs that tend to cause anxiety. Therapy catalyzes cognitive changes that cause the brain to restructure so it can’t produce as much anxiety as before.
If you want an option that might be more convenient and cost-effective for you than traditional therapy, try online therapy. It can be effective in treating anxiety, according to a study of online, text-based therapy.
Below are some examples of cognitive strategies your therapist might work with you on to reduce anxiety. You can try these on your own, too.
Note: Many therapists incorporate or recommend the below techniques as part of their work. They can also teach clients how to use them effectively.
Deep Breathing and Meditation
Exercise reduces anxiety, according to a wealth of research. It does this by lowering the reactivity of the nervous system and other parts of the body that process anxiety.
Having a healthy and balanced diet can help you cope with anxiety. Here is a quick summary of a balanced diet that could help make you less anxious:
A psychiatrist can prescribe medication that might help you mitigate anxiety. Medication is an effective short-term strategy for taking the edge off of severe, crippling anxiety, but it doesn’t provide the long-term benefits of the aforementioned solutions. It also carries the risk of becoming dependent on a certain drug and experiencing withdrawal when attempting to get off it. There are side effects, including nausea and vomiting. Many people try to avoid these side effects and risks by trying therapy first.
Once you better understand anxiety and can separate the good from the bad, you’ll be able to take steps toward getting rid of the bad anxiety. Remember, you don’t need to be alone in this process. Licensed therapists can help you lift the burden and live a less anxious life.