by Linda K. Laffey, MFT
Anxiety should be your friend.
It should be a warning when things get scary or dangerous.
It should be a motivator when you have been challenged.
Unfortunately, your anxiety simply will not leave you alone.
It’s always there, always in the way of the life you long to lead.
It’s time to break free.
Here is where to begin:
1. Break down your rising anxious responses. Be Aware.
You can feel your pulse quicken and your concentration slip. Quick! Before you lose focus all together, reign in your emotions. Isolate each one. Steal their power by naming them: Fear, worry, panic, embarrassment, powerlessness. Keep going until you have them all out on your mental table. Prepare yourself to deal with them.
2. Break the pattern. Assume control.
If it seems that you have anxious episodes, only to feel them to subside, and then worry yourself into another anxious episode, it’s time to interrupt the pattern. Give yourself time to worry. Let anxiety happen. Schedule time to run through all your worrisome thoughts before they run over you. Then put them away and proceed with life, more in control.
3. Break up with “absolute certainty.” Accept that some things are uncertain.
Start coming to terms with the truth: That all of your best efforts will still leave some people and places feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. Try to build up a belief in the idea that despite the possibility of something negative occurring, life can still be really good and relationships can still be very fulfilling.
4. Break the habits of anxious, negative thinking. Challenge your thoughts.
Once you have a better idea of what you’re feeling, you may be ready to look at the thoughts that led you to such an anxious response. Many people experience some sort of cognitive distortion. Do any of these habits sound familiar?
All-or-nothing thinking – You only see your life as black or white, win or lose, success or failure.
Over-generalization – One negative experience means every similar experience will be negative.
Filtering – You only see the negative aspects of a given situation.
Diminishing – You think up all the reasons positive results don’t count.
Jumping to conclusions – You project negative thoughts, interpretations, ideas onto other people or situations without real cause or proof.
Catastrophizing – You specialize in the worst-case scenarios.
Emotional reasoning – Your feelings dictate your reality.
Legalizing – You beat yourself up for breaking a long list of self-imposed rules.
Labeling – You see yourself poorly and label yourself accordingly.
Personalization – You take responsibility for things you cannot control.
5. Break off relationships with anxiety amplifiers. Resist being a ”mood catcher.”
Avoid situations that feed your penchant for worry and upset. Look carefully at your triggers. Examine your sleep, work, and dietary habits. Pay attention to the people you look to for companionship and support. Commit to healthier standards, relationship boundaries, and release whatever perpetuates your fear.
6. Break away with mood relaxation techniques. Be in the moment.
What thoughts cross your mind when you are feeling your most anxious? Your mind is probably consumed with “what ifs” and “coulds” and “shoulds.” Try to embrace the present moment with meditation techniques like deep breathing, visualization, or the practice of mindfulness in which you practice observing your anxious thoughts without trying to control them.
7. Break the hold anxiety has on you. Expose yourself to fears gradually.
Sometimes it’s best to confront fears a little at a time. Action is crucial for finally breaking free. Exposing yourself to people, situations, or things that hold you back can eventually rob them of their power. Commit to moving forward. Refuse to let anxiety be more than the motivating force that keeps you safe or challenges you to be your best.
When you are ready to put your fears and anxieties that have been interfering with your quality of life behind you for good, working with a highly specialized and experienced therapist can help you do so in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise. Please call my voicemail and leave some good times to reach you so we can discuss how we might work together to accomplish your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT