Health And Wellness

How To Reduce Anxiety Instantly And Live A More Productive Life

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How To Reduce Anxiety Instantly

Anxiety. It’s just a part of life, right?

What if I told you it doesn’t have to be? That you can learn how to reduce anxiety and go about your daily life?

Emotional arousal is language-based. In other words, even though the fight-or-flight response or the adrenaline rush is hardwired into our brains, we can circumvent it by changing the words we use to describe a situation.

RELATED: The One Mindfulness Technique That Eliminates Anxiety —​ Without Medication!

The hardwired fight-or-flight response. 

When humankind first showed up on Earth, we had a number of predators, most of whom were larger than us. We had to be able to respond quickly to a threat.

For example, if attacked by a wooly mammoth, we had to be able to throw our spear (fight) or run like heck (flight) in order to survive.

We no longer have this type of threat to contend with, but we are still hardwired as if there were such threats to our survival. The adrenaline rush or the fight-or-flight response has not evolved with the changes in our circumstances — we still have it hardwired into our brains.

The big difference is that today, it's activated by the words we use to describe our circumstances and is not an actual threat.

Words can create a threat that triggers our fight-or-flight response.

Words like "hideous," "stingy," "stupid," "insane," "jerk," and so much more evoke a reaction in the person being described that's similar to the flight-or-fight response.

In other words, we create a threat by using threatening words. We can also use them on ourselves and they have the same effect.

The problem is that those judging words have the same impact that the fear of the wooly mammoth or crashing your car has — the adrenaline rush.

When things get sticky, we often use judging words to describe our situation, our boss, our no-account boyfriend, and, worst of all, ourselves.

This mechanism was never designed to be in the "on" position all of the time. It was designed to be used for emergencies only.

What this means is that we can get that adrenaline rush by worrying about whether or not our significant other is loyal, our boss is going to fire us, the stock market is going to crash, or we look fat in that bathing suit.

The overuse of this mechanism, which releases cortisol, is not healthy.

An overuse of cortisol is tied to:

  • Weight gain, mostly around the midsection and upper back
  • Rounding of the face
  • Acne
  • Thinning skin
  • Easy bruising
  • Flushed face
  • Slowed healing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Severe fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • High blood pressure
  • Headache

RELATED: 10 Small Ways To Handle Anxiety When Your Brain Starts Spinning Out Of Control

The good news is that if you change the words from judging, scary, or negative to neutral, the emotional response changes — there's no adrenaline rush and no elevated cortisol.

We are completely in charge.

This is big. It means that we are completely in charge.

Depending upon the words we use to describe a situation, we can trigger the adrenaline rush or we can stay calm. It is up to us.

For example, I worked with a group of execs in a fortune 10 company who were extremely frustrated by a government regulation they had to use to vet their research.

On one chart, I had them list words to describe the process that was driving them nuts. On another chart, the feelings associated with those words. They listed 40 or so very judging words to describe the process.

Then, I had them list the feelings they associated with those judging words. A lot of negative emotions went on that list.

Next, I had them rate the level of emotion they were feeling about those words, from one to 100. They rated the feeling level in the room to be 150!

Next, I had them use neutral words only to describe the process. This was much harder. It was very easy for them to come up with the pejorative and judging words, but much harder to come up with neutral words.

In fact, I had to get them started with words like "statistical," "data-driven," and "analytical." The neutral list wasn’t as long as the judging list, but they came up with 15 or so neutral words.

Next, they described the feelings they associated with the new words. This time, the feelings were all in the neutral range such as "accepting," "resigned," "calm," and "hopeful."

When I asked them to describe the feeling level looking only at the neutral words, they rated the new feeling level in the room to be 15.

They went from 150 to 15 just by changing the words! They were amazed that they could think about the problem without feeling anger and helplessness.

The group was so impressed with this little experiment that they decided to put what they had learned into practice.

So, they started a jar in the office in which everyone agreed to put in $5 for every judging thought or word. Three months later, they had me back and described how staying in "neutral" had changed their work environment.

They also showed data on how much productivity for the group had improved (nearly 30 percent!) during this experiment.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) utilizes this underlying premise — changing the words changes the emotional response and frees us up for better problem solving and richer life experiences.

We have total control over the words, which gives us control over the anxiety we experience. That’s a good thing!

RELATED: 4 Ways You Can Reduce Your Anxiety Just By Changing Your Thinking

Renae Norton is a psychologist. For more information, visit her website, Eating Disorder Pro.

This article was originally published at Eating Disorder Pro. Reprinted with permission from the author.