Playing with Anxiety

People struggling with anxiety often want it to go away, which is understandable.  However this stance of ‘I don’t want this to be happening” is part of what gives Anxiety its power.  If you can accept what you are experiencing in the moment, then you are back in control.  A supportive message to yourself is part of this process – “It’s ok that I’m feeling anxious, anxiety is natural and my brain is just trying to be helpful.  I can handle this feeling, I can handle this situation”.  Keeping the cortex engaged (the ‘thinking’ part of our brain) helps to put the brakes on emotion running our show.

The paradox of dealing with anxiety is taking action to reduce the symptoms while at the same time permitting the symptoms to exist:  “It’s okay that I’m feeling anxious right now, I’m going to take some calming breaths (or insert additional strategy here) and see if I can settle myself down.  If I do, great, but if I stay anxious , that’s okay too”.  The goal is attempting to modify the symptoms without becoming attached to the outcome (telling yourself “I need to calm down” is usually going to make the symptoms worse – think about those sleepless nights during the work week, how well did it work, telling yourself “I need to get to sleep”).

Simply noticing and observing physical symptoms without judging them (fearing them) helps create a sense of distance or detachment from them: “I’m noticing my heart beating quickly and I can feel my face is flushed”.  Try being curious about your symptoms, wondering about the miracle of this body and how it is working to create these sensations.  This type of reflection can also contribute to a sense of detachment – noticing and observing without making any meaning out of the experience.

You are the expert on your experience, when you try any new self care strategy, start slowly and carefully, and stop immediately if it feels bad or makes things worse. These strategies are not a replacement for working with a trained helper, but they can be a helpful skill to build for yourself.

It’s helpful to remember you are not your feelings, feelings come and go, they are transient, and can be regulated.  The key is learning what works to put you back in the driver’s seat of your own experience.