Do you worry too much? Do you feel like you are not in control? Do you feel anxious about failing and choke when asked to perform? Do you feel overwhelmed by it all and want to get out of a revolving door of anxieties? Can you master techniques to overcome anxiety and prevent them from coming back?
If you count yourself among the millions in a revolving door of anxieties, I’ll bet that you are following a predictable negative process, or series of actions that result in your anxieties starting up and continuing on. If you can see what goes into this process, you can predict the process. What you can predict, you can take steps to control. By controlling key steps in the process, you can help yourself stop harmful anxieties from coming back.
Processes consist of a sequence of actions. By making your anxiety sequence visible, you put yourself in a catbird's seat to see what is going on when you go through an anxiety process. Once you see the process, you've positioned yourself to tinker with the separate parts that flow together. By changing a step here and there, you can interrupt the process and stop feeling so anxious.
If you choose to stop a flow of anxiety, here are seven questions about your anxiety process.
1.What triggers unhealthy anxious feelings? Is it the situation? Is it the discomfort that you feel about the situation?
2. Do you feel anxious when uncertain, when you think your self-image is on the line, or what will happen next that you can't control?
3.What thoughts and beliefs do you have that shape your anxious perspective?
4. What do you do to dodge discomfort (anxiety, fear)?
5. Do you feel relief when you avoid a feared situation? (And if so, might relief reinforce avoiding what you fear, thus condemning you to go through the same revolving anxiety door?)
6. Do you procrastinate on liberating yourself from your anxiety cycle?
7. What other questions would you add to the list?
By mapping your anxiety process, you can ordinarily see common links between the various anxieties that you may experience. By targeting common links, you can find that changes in one core area can carry over to different forms of anxiety that you might experience. For example, developing tolerance for discomfort can automatically carry over from anxiety about failing to a coexisting anxiety about speaking up in public to anxiety over approaching an attractive stranger. When you make a change in a factor in an anxiety process, that both mutes that anxiety and untangles a cluster of related anxieties, this is called a transdiagnostic effect.
If you are ready to try a different process to combat your anxieties, test the following three-pronged process to combat anxiety. See if following a process of clearing your mind, building your body, and changing anxiety patterns helps increase resilience and reduce anxiety. Perhaps one, or more, of the following broad categories of antianxiety techniques can produce a transdiagnostic effect:
Clear your mind. Start with acceptance. Whatever the reason you suffer from anxiety, it is not your fault. You had poor role models. You are overly sensitive to negative changes in your sensations. You startle easily. It is, however, your responsibility to develop a process for dealing with the complications, such as catastrophizing, or blowing a problem up into something that is far worse than it is. By working to tone down how you talk to yourself, you may have found a way out of your revolving door. Although anxiety thinking can feel discombobulating, by not taking these thoughts personally, you may release them sooner. Make a point to separate possibilities from probabilities and you have a tool for dealing with worry thinking.
Build your body. Daily life is filled with stresses and strains and they add to what Rockefeller University psychologist Bruce McEwen calls the allostatic load factor, or wearing and tearing your body from stress. This effect can be amplified by anxiety and add to your vulnerability for anxiety. To reduce the load, get adequate sleep. Exercise. Avoid smoking. Avoid drinking excessively. Learn to regulate your negative emotions to decrease stress. Keep with this plan until you feel resilient.
Change your anxiety patterns. Approach is the opposite of avoidance. That seems self-evident. But for many, the negative feelings and physical symptoms of anxiety make it seem like approaching what you fear is unattainable. Yet this approach process may be the very best thing that you can do to overcome a destructive anxiety. Whether or not you believe you can approach what you fear, map an approach process where you detail steps in the direction of approaching what you’d ordinarily avoid. In Hans Vaihinger’s The Philosophy of As If, the philosopher suggests that your personal views of reality are fluid. In short, you are not stuck in the revolving door. Set up your approach process as a series of steps to be tested that lead to a positive result. Act as if it you can accomplish each step in your new approach process.
For more guidance on how successfully to combat anxiety, click on: The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety (Second Edition)
© Dr. Bill Knaus