Turning down the dial on Anxiety: Dealing with a high need for control

Technically, anxiety is apprehension over an upcoming event which strikes when you perceive the event as a psychological (or physical) threat to your safety. It doesn't have to be rational, although it can be. Today I am going to talk you through the relationship between feeling anxious, or experiencing anxiety, and the resulting behaviour of controlling your environment/self. Here's what happens:

  1. You perceive a threat: It could be anything, perhaps it's an email from your boss questioning a decision which you suddenly feel uncomfortable about when thinking it through. This is the Cognition component.
  2. You have an emotional reaction: When you think about the email or your decision, you experience an emotion. This will likely be an experience such as fear, surprise, worry, sadness.
  3. You complete a behaviour: You will complete a behaviour designed to reduce your internal discomfort raised by your thoughts and emotions/feelings. This is where your controlling behaviours often sit. You might control your food, your body, your environment, your work, your loved ones, your wardrobe, your image, etc. However you gain control through behaviours, your goal is to bring down your levels of discomfort.
“The more anxiety, the greater the need to control. Likewise, the less anxiety, the less the controlling behaviours.”
Turn down the dial on anxiety. Pic: Flat Icon.

Turn down the dial on anxiety. Pic: Flat Icon.

When it works, which controlling behaviours tend to do, you experience a pairing - that is next time you experience anxiety, you complete the same controlling behaviours to reduce the unpleasant feelings and thoughts. The more anxiety, the greater the need to control. Likewise, the less anxiety, the less the controlling behaviours.

So what can you do to reduce anxiety?

  1. Take Responsibility and make changes: If you need to take accountability for something, do it. If you can address the root cause of the issue causing you anxiety, then ultimately you will reduce your anxieties. Sometimes this isn't possible, so the following self-care practices are important.
  2. Take a break: A pattern interrupt to reset yourself. Go for a walk, have a laugh with a colleague, look up at the sky. Anything positive to break the cycle and give your self a surge of feeling good.
  3. Make sure you get enough sleep: This is more of a general life rule for anyone experiencing anxiety. The greater your sleep, the more personal power and energy you will have to behave in ways that are constructive rather than destructive
  4. Change your physiology: Exercise to boost endorphins. We all know these uplift us quickly. Move your body and what your brain and emotions follow.
  5. Talk it out: Find someone to talk you through it in a way that allows you to understand what you are experiencing. I find therapy to be the best place to build your relationship with yourself. And you will learn things that change the trajectory of your life forever.

How do you break the cycle between anxiety and control?