Anxiety may seem like a consequence of busy modern life, but it first evolved as a response to threats our ancestors experienced in the wild. If we examine the six stereotypical reactions we have to anxious situations, we can see their evolutionary origins and then transform these natural responses into productive ways of dealing with stressful circumstances. These six responses are fight, flight, freeze, appease, tend, and befriend. By mastering them, making them our tools, and using them to our advantage, we can conquer our anxiety.
Figure out your natural anxiety response and transform it into something positive.
1. Fight: The fight response is fairly obvious; it's what gets us into scuffles. If anxious situations make you feel aggressive and feisty, you may be able to channel your energy into vocalizing your complaints (speaking up for what's right); just saying no; negotiating boundaries, conditions, and ground rules to avoid altercation; and doing battle with the anxiety-provoking beliefs and worries inside yourself. The fighter has to engage the situation to overcome his or her anxiety.
2. Flight: Flight makes us want to run away from our problems. If anxious situations make you want to run in the opposite direction, you're a fleer. That doesn't make you a coward; you can and should leave situations if they're not working and can't be fixed; look elsewhere for better situations rather than suffering in the one you're in; step back and disengage, especially when a situation starts to look hopeless. The fleer can also completely abandon and run away from anxious thoughts inside him or herself.
3. Freeze: Freezing is stopping all movement (mental or physical) until a problem goes away. If anxious situations tend to paralyze you, you may do best by calling time-outs; observing negative situations quietly; buying yourself or others time by waiting; being patient and restrained and letting things come and change naturally; and creating space for new, better possibilities. The freezer's patience and measured personality helps him or her to make it out of a stressful situation with minimal added stress.
4. Appease: The appease response makes us supplicate; when we bow to our "betters." If you tend to take the blame yourself when in an anxious situation, you're an appeaser. You may find your anxiety lessened when you take maximum personal responsibility without overdoing it; when you offer genuine apologies; when you makes agreements and promises toward the future and amends for the past; when you give gifts, and when you acknowledge the grievances and anxieties of others and work to solve them.
5. Tend: The tend response invites us to nurture in order to balance out our stress. If anxious situations make you want to curl up and be taken care of, you would do well to build up your personal resources for dealing with situations: taking meditative time for yourself, relaxing, and building alliances and to take care of yourself, making sure that you work on your own anxiety-inducing tendencies gently while allowing your kindness and caring for others work on their own anxious tendencies.
6. Befriend: Befriending is the tendency to defuse anxious situations with levity and charm. If anxious situations make you want to crack jokes and find common ground with others, you're a befriender. The befriender can use his or her skills by making friends with his or her enemies (to a point, of course), recognizing and being kind to the inner goodness inside every anxiety-inducing person or thing, befriending him or herself (meaning being one's own best ally), and bringing a sense of humor to a difficult situation.
7. Keeping the right hemisphere of the brain busy helps to alleviate anxiety because it evolved to scan for threats, while the left hemisphere in part works to control negative emotion. By keeping the "worrier" half busy and letting the "emoter" do its business without interference, you can reduce anxious reactions. Things that occupy the right brain include:
Painting & Sketching
Even if you have never handled a brush or sketched ever, you should try out painting or sketching. One reason why you should do it is that it's a lot of fun. Set yourself up with colors, brushes and a canvas or drawing pad. Sketch anything you want or let your mind wander with a paint brush. You can draw or sketch from memory or keep an object in front to sketch. Try landscapes or portraits if you want. If you are totally new to painting, just enjoy splashing colors and drawing patterns. Not only will it be a lot of fun, you will also get an idea about how well you observe.
Learning to Play Music & Singing
Learning to play any musical instrument or singing is one the best exercises. Even appreciating good music can unlock your mind. Singing is a great release for the mind. Try it out!
Sports activities like baseball, table tennis and badminton or any other game can also be great right brain stimulants. Coming up with a strategy and executing it while playing a game takes a lot of visualization. You have to see yourself doing it in the mind and then you can execute it. That is why, sports is a great exercise for the right brain.
Creating & Writing Your Own Stories
The idea of this exercise is creating your own imaginary storyline and writing it. You start with a random situation and build a story out of it! It's a lot of fun. You will surprise yourself with what you can come up with, through your imagination.
Map Reading Games
This is a game that you can play which needs a lot of visualization. You study the map of a country for a few minutes and then try to visualize and locate a place that you are asked to look for. Not only will this improve your geography knowledge, it will also promote visualization.
A Visit to an Art Gallery
A visit to an art galley can be a good exercise. Try to understand the feeling conveyed by the paintings of master painters. Let your mind feast on the colors and patterns that it sees. Art appreciation can be a great right brain exercise, as you have to go beyond conventional thinking to appreciate what a painter has tried to say.
Theater games are also great exercises. One game that you can play is that of improvised drama. You are given a situation and a rough storyline, from which you and your group must come up with a small skit. With no written storyline, you have to rely on your imagination and improvisation skills to come up with a story and act! It can be an enjoyable and interesting activity.