Almost 20 percent of the population is nervous, anxious or depressed. According to research, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, with numerous types and multiple forms of diagnosis and treatment. There are ways to cope with the symptoms of anxiety disorders.

If you are around people who are uptight, you’re likely to become so too. The adage “be careful of the company you keep” applies here, but it isn’t just your external friends, co-workers and family members; it’s the internal company you keep, too. How many negative visitors come to your mind every day, telling you that the sky is falling and things will just never work out?

Becoming a calmer person means being attentive to the voices around you — outside and inside. It means separating yourself from the constant barrage of negative news. Social media alone can tell you within minutes all of the tragedies and evil going on in the world today. It’s not that it’s even fake news; much of it may be true, but what does feeding yourself a diet of awfulness do for you? Anxiety levels go up, depression cements itself in your mind, and you can almost become paralyzed thinking there is nothing you can do, so why do anything?

You might not even consciously notice what you are exposed to on any given day — what you read, the news you are listening to, what you hear at the water cooler — and how those often-negative messages start to build up inside your mind. You may think you are having a fine day and things are “good” but then you realize you are feeling down, or thinking in an anxious fashion. These negative messages can build up and, often without you knowing it, take over your thought process. There is nothing really wrong, but you are on edge, waiting for that moment when everything falls apart. It could happen to you once a week, or several times a day, but for people with anxiety, it’s all too often.

Now there are also medical reasons for being anxious, and this article is not meant to address anything that requires medical intervention. If you find that you are unable to live a normal life and depression and anxiety are taking you over, seek medical attention immediately. This article is for those people who are functioning well enough, but would like to be calmer and more centered in their daily activities.

Consider some of the following ideas to move yourself away from the negative overtones and undertones and back to a centered, peaceful place:

  1. Choose your friends wisely and carefully. Some people are happy in their unhappiness. They will find a reason to be down and out, no matter what their external circumstances. Some truly have life’s issues they are struggling with, and others seem to have it all but aren’t happy anyway. Be careful not to seek out the down-and-outers and get drawn into their negativity. Yes, there are difficulties in life around every corner, but some corners lead to beautiful fields of green — don’t stay stuck with people who only see the garbage; find some who also see the roses blooming. If nothing else, seek balance in your relationships.
  2. Listen carefully to the voices in your own head, otherwise known as your internal self-talk. What messages do you give yourself when you wake up in the morning? “Oh great, another day…” or “Oh, great!! Another day!!” Just shifting the tone a bit can move you toward a more positive place. Do this several times throughout the day when you find yourself dragging or otherwise feeling blah. It’s not a matter of rose-colored glasses, it’s a matter of how you choose to focus your attention.
  3. Monitor your diet of negative news. If you find you are someone who gets attached to social media or the news because you are captivated by the negative stories about death and destruction, approach this like you would any food diet. You don’t have to go cold turkey and separate yourself from everything, but be selective. Only read the negativity during a certain time of the day, and then choose to ignore it otherwise. And never, ever indulge yourself with this negativity right at bedtime. The mind can wreak havoc in the darkness of night.
  4. Learn to reframe situations. Most things are not all bad, and many things are not all good. Everything in life has its upside and its downside. If you don’t believe this, investigate the research on the unhappiness of millionaires and wealthy people. More money, for example, doesn’t mean more happiness. Even very sick people can find they are more joyful, knowing they might not have as much time as they’d hoped for left to live. Don’t wish things were different — take what you have and reframe it to find the best of a situation. Adopt the attitude of learning something new from everything that happens.
  5. Focus on what you do want, not what you don’t want. Some people just seem drawn to bad things happening all of the time. It’s possible that if your mind is focused on what you don’t want, it tries to manifest that very thing. Not that you, or anyone, is all-powerful, but it’s probably prudent to keep your attention on the things that are beneficial and positive, and not on what you want to move away from.

Life is hard. Terrible things happen every day to wonderful people. There is no way around this; it’s the story of life. However, it doesn’t mean you have to acquiesce and agree to live a negative, anxious life. You can take steps to minimize what’s wrong even in light of difficult circumstances. Become more aware and self-reflective, and see if you can’t shift some of your experiences for the better.

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