As we’ve discussed in other posts, anxiety is not all bad, but sometimes how we react to it when it kick’s off can become a problem for us. So I want you to imagine a situation that makes you REALLY anxious, not a little bit anxious, I mean REALLY anxious. That could be anything from having to pick up a spider to giving a presentation in work / school or going to a party where you don’t know many people. This is what triggers our anxious response:
When our anxiety kicks in it doesn’t escalate nice and gently, it takes off so fast it feels completely uncontrollable
Our head spins with “What if” catastrophic thoughts
All we can think is that it’s going to be a complete disaster
Our heart pounds at a 1000 miles an hour
We just can’t catch our breath we’re breathing so fast
We feel like we’re so anxious, our stomach is doing somersaults and that we might actually get sick
Out anxiety is calling us and calling us very loudly, so loud that we feel we can’t ignore it
The only message it wants to give us is avoid, escape, get out of there NOW or else all of your catastrophic predictions are going to come through and it will keep calling and calling until you listen to it’s prophecies of impending doom (the spider is going to eat you, you’ll made an idiot of yourself and everyone will laugh at how crap your presentation is and no one will talk to you at the party and it’ll be the worst night of your life)
So you do the only thing that at the times seems like the rational thing to do
So you didn’t go to the party, made excuses for the presentation, got someone else to get rid of the evil spider so all you feel now is relief, that was a lucky escape
The next time a party invite comes up or you get the chance to present again there is only one message that your anxiety will be sending you
Your anxiety will convince you that you were lucky last time, your avoidance was the only thing that stopped a potential heart attack, stopped you getting sick and fainting from hyperventilating and making the biggest fool of yourself of your entire life.
Anxiety begins to dominate our every thought, every day, it feels like it’s all we know and there’s a risk that it will….
Trying to manage feeling so anxious all the time, trying to predict and stay ahead of all of the potential danger that surrounds us has a big impact on our energy levels
We then think that there’s only one way that we can manage our anxiety and situations that make us anxious
The big problem with this…
Emotions are not something that we can (or should) switch on and off
Ok lets move away from Anxiety for a little bit, I want you to think of your favourite comedy series, for arguments sake lets say it’s Brooklyn Nine Nine
So when a new episode comes out you laugh at it, you find it funny. Then you have to watch the same episode over and over each time finding it funnier that the first time.
I think we all know that…
What we do know is that the more we do the same thing the less of an emotional reaction we’re going have to it. After watching the same episode of Brooklyn Nine Nine 10 times, lots of laughter and happiness is unlikely to be how we’re going to react to it
And because anxiety is an emotion, the same way happiness is, the more we do the same thing that makes us anxious the less of an emotional or anxious reaction we’re going to have to it.
However when it comes to things that make us very anxious and maybe even panic it’s pretty unrealistic that we’re going to…
and go from running screaming from the idea there’s a spider in the house to this..
What does work is making ourselves anxious a little bit at a time, building our confidence that we can survive feeling anxious in the moment and that even though we feel bad, the end of the world is not actually about to happen
Each time do something despite our anxiety, we get an opportunity to experience the greatest thought we can ever think of in managing anxiety: It wasn’t as bad as I thought (anxiety predicted)
Each little step we take towards our goal also gives us a sense of achievement, a sense of success, despite feeling anxious about it
And one day, without us knowing it, anxiety no longer is our enemy, it’s no longer something to fear or to avoid (in unjustified situations), and believe it our not anxiety can become our friend….