Don't Try Harder, Try Different!

Simple strategies for handling anxiety and stress.

Time to Try Different!

Step 1 - Don't Try Harder, Try Different - SHOULD

OK, now it is time to start to make those behavior changes. Starting with your lowest level fear your job is to do that thing. But, how do you just go and do that thing? Well, that is where Don't Try Harder, Try Different comes into play.

So, step one in Don't Try Harder, Try Different is to do the following: Think about this - when was the last time you used the word should to describe something that went well? You can think about this for as long as you want, but the answer is never - should is only used to describe things that did not go the way you wanted them to, such as "I should have done this" or "They shouldn't have done that." The more you use the word should, the worse you will feel, because you will only use it to remind yourself of failures and things that did not work out well at all. So, it is time to think in terms of "I wish" or "I want" or "I hope" or "I would like." Saying things this way allows for a discussion to be had. Saying that things should be a certain way only allows for them to happen that way and no other way is acceptable.

Should is an absolute, and there are not really many absolutes in the world as we know it. Humans have to live with a lot of maybe, but you may think that things should only be yes or no. This may be a very difficult way to live, since others may not see things your way. You may even get angry at others for not seeing things your way, which leads us to the most striking thing about should - it is just an opinion. But, if you think at that everything you think in terms of should is true and that it really should be that way, then you will have nothing but arguments all of the time with people. Should is just an opinion, and nothing more. If I say that there should be more snow today, and you say that there should be less snow today, then who is correct? Neither of us is, but we both said should, so we will just probably be mad at each other for our disagreements. This is a huge waste of time.

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So, catch yourself shoulding all over the place. Replace your shoulds with "I would like" and see how it feels to start to accept more options that just the one you think should be true.

As you start to challenge your behaviors, try doing the opposite of what you might that that you should do to be safe - maybe the opposite is actually the best thing to do after all.

Patrick McGrath, Ph.D., is the Director of the Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital's Center for Anxiety and OCD Program and president of Anxiety Centers of Illinois. more...

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