How to Get Rid of Anxiety

Updated: Jul 30, 2018

Long Ma

Last time I mentioned people's anxiety, now let me talk about how to find ways to get rid of anxiety.

To solve a problem, you first need to know what the problem is, and then find a solution to that specific problem. Anxiety comes from stress. To get rid of anxiety, you need to know where the stress comes from, and then find a way to get rid of the pressure.

People often tell me that their mood is very bad, they are very upset, and they are stressed out. When I ask them why, they typically think about it for a while and tell me some problems in their careers, their schools, or their relationships. But the troubles usually turn out not to be as serious as they first sounded.

Why do we feel that the pressure is far greater than the actual external pressure we are exposed to? There is an example that illustrates the problem. We don't feel much weight when carrying a glass of water in our hand. If you keep holding it, however, the weight you feel on your hand will get heavier and heavier, and later you may even think that the glass of water would be heavy enough to crush you. The same is true for the external pressure we are exposed to. You feel the pressure as if it is about to crush you because you have not put it down for a long time. Sometimes our brains will deceive us and exaggerate our feelings.

Someone once told me that he was very busy, and he was continually thinking about problems in his mind. I asked him to list all the things he was thinking of. The list was shorter than he thought. Why is this happening? It is because he thinks of everything at once. The brain repeats one thing many times, making things complicated. When he wrote down the list of the problems, he could find a solution to every single problem, and then stopped thinking about it. The problems are not difficult to solve in this way, and eventually, you will have fewer issues to deal with.

The same is true for dealing with pressure. First, figure out what is the pressure, and then come up with a solution, so that you can put the matter down like a glass of water, and the pressure will be gone. For things that are still uncertain, think about what the worst outcome could be. Imagine you are headed into that possible scenario, face the problem, stick around until you accept it, and you shall have no more pressure. There is an old saying in China, "There is no big deal in life except for the matter of life or death itself." Often what we are stressed about is not a big deal at all. If you think about it clearly, you can face it. You will smile to yourself.

Uncertainty about the future is also a major cause of anxiety for people nowadays. We have an illusion that we can totally control our own future. If we find out later that the future is unpredictable, we will be anxious: anxious about exams, anxious about interviews, and anxious about the future. No matter how much we prepare, there are still many factors that cannot be controlled by us. We just need to do our best and let the Almighty do the rest. There is a belief in Western philosophy that when one lives long enough, he would experience as many good things as things he thought were bad. As a Chinese saying goes, “When the old man lost his horse, who knew it wasn’t a blessing”, i.e., “A setback may turn out to be a blessing in disguise”, or as well expressed in this English idiom: “every cloud has a silver lining.” Our human wisdom knows too little about how things really work in the universe. We should do as the Chinese wise man said, “The Noble Man acts accepting his own situation. He does not hope to be somewhere else”, “The Noble Man abides in change and awaits his destiny” (The Doctrine of the Mean, translated by A. Charles Muller, see We shall believe that we reap what we sow. If a person has a good heart, and is kind to others, her life will get better and better.

If we take every current moment seriously, we don't have to worry about the future, and our anxiety will no longer linger.

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