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Why Anxiety Must Be Reduced Gradually--And How to Do It

October 3, 2019 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

No matter how intense anxiety is or how much it interferes in your life, you can shrink it, step over it, and keep going. However, doing so is a process; to have lasting positive effects, anxiety must be reduced gradually. To overcome anxiety permanently requires a gradual approach with a lot of patience, persistence, and perseverance. 

It's true and incredibly frustrating: There are no quick fixes for anxiety. To be sure, there are indeed many things you can do in a moment, such as listening to music, eating a healthy snack. or going for a mindful walk, to calm anxiety and stress. These are important components of an anxiety-free life. To create that quality life without the heavy burden of anxiety requires a slowing down and a gradual implementation of strategies. 

Reasons Why Anxiety Must Be Reduced Gradually

You want anxiety gone, but immediately and simultaneously implementing every strategy you learn often doesn't lower anxiety. A few reasons include:

  • Trying too many things at once can be overwhelming, which can cause discouragement and the temptation to give up. Anxiety soars when this happens. 
  • Rushing to try several new strategies at once makes it difficult to sort out what is helping, how well it's working, and under what circumstances it improves anxiety. Pinpointing specifics like these is important as you move forward, so you can do more of what keeps anxiety at a distance and less of what keeps you chained to it.
  • Your thoughts and emotions need time to react and assimilate your anxiety-reducing strategies. Wanting instant results makes sense given how awful anxiety can be to live with, but the brain doesn't change immediately. It needs time to adapt and adjust. Trying to speed the process can lead to abandoning techniques and hopping quickly to something else. This leaves the brain anxious and stressed. 
  • Similarly, changing behaviors also takes time because new actions need to be practiced and used regularly to become a lasting habit. 

For practical reasons, anxiety must be reduced gradually. Rushing the process, while tempting, doesn't lead to lasting improvements. Of course, getting rid of anxiety progressively is much easier said than done. Sometimes, the mere thought of needing patience while your brain takes its sweet time adjusting and creating lasting changes can be anxiety-provoking. 

How to Be Patient While Gradually Reducing Anxiety

To give yourself time to learn an anxiety-reducing strategy, implement it, and use it until it becomes second nature and your anxiety moves down a notch requires patience, persistence, and perseverance. They work together to help you gradually lower anxiety.

To do this, approach your anti-anxiety work with an attitude of non-judgment. Instead of constantly evaluating how a technique is working, just use it and continue your daily life. Be mindfully present with each part of your day, and when you notice yourself being irritated that what you're doing isn't helping your anxiety, remind yourself that overcoming anxiety takes time and patience. This won't speed up the process, but you'll avoid getting caught up in feeling anxious. 

Remember the moral of The Tortoise and The Hare: Slow and steady wins the race. Keep at it, persevering even when reducing anxiety seems impossibly slow and difficult. It's a process that happens step by step, persistently. Steadily, you'll build an anxiety-free, quality life. 

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, October 3). Why Anxiety Must Be Reduced Gradually--And How to Do It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2019/10/why-anxiety-must-be-reduced-gradually-and-how-to-do-it



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson delivers online and in-person mental health education for students in elementary and middle school. She is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She also speaks nationally about mental health. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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