Re-Think Anxiety with New Strategies and Tools

Dandelion

What do you notice about your anxiety?

I mean, other than the way it feels?

Notice anything about your thoughts in relation to what's actually happening in the moment?

I would be willing to bet that whatever thought you are having at the time have little to nothing to do with the present moment in time.

Why?

Because if what you were anxious about was happening in the present moment, you would be too busy dealing with it to actually feel anxious about it.

Isn't that interesting?

Think about any specific time you have felt anxious about something, anything could be a presentation, meeting new people, making an uncomfortable phone call, etc.

Notice 2 things here; 1 you got through it and are alive to tell the tale, and 2 while you were in the middle of dealing with the situation you weren't anxious about the situation.

Anxiety is the anticipatory worry about something that has not happened yet.

But, while you are actually dealing with it in the moment you aren't anxious.

Or, if you are anxious then you aren't actually doing what you need to be.

If this sounds like a lot of confusing back and forth, stay with me as we dive deeper into how to re-think anxiety.


Anxiety Therapists in Colorado

Dr. Alana Fenton Ph.D., PSYC

Dr. Alana Fenton Ph.D., PSYC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Julia Rosales, MA, LPCC

Julia Rosales, MA, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Emily Murphy, LPC

Emily Murphy, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Susan Taylor, LPCC

Susan Taylor, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Clarissa Mendez, LSW

Clarissa Mendez, LSW

Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Joshua Goldberg, LPCC

Joshua Goldberg, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Deb Corbitt, LPC

Deb Corbitt, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Amber Chambless, LPC

Amber Chambless, LPC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Arias Gonzales, MS, LPC

Arias Gonzales, MS, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Paitton Callery, LPCC, ATR-P

Paitton Callery, LPCC, ATR-P

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Heather Comensky, LPC

Heather Comensky, LPC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Vanessa Dewitt, LCSW

Vanessa Dewitt, LCSW

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Felicia Gray, MS, LPC

Felicia Gray, MS, LPC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Stephanie Kol, LPCC

Stephanie Kol, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021

Anxiety Example

Let's look at an example that will hopefully clear up and lingering doubts left from above.

Say you have to give a presentation next week.

You spend the whole week preparing and worrying about how you'll sound, whether the computer will be agreeable if people are going to think this or that about your outfit, and on and on.

Now, it's presentation day and you are an anxious wreck; your jaw and muscles are tight, you can feel your body heat rising, and you are worrying about fumbling over your words.

You step up in front of everyone and begin to speak.

1 of 2 things is going to happen.

Either you'll be so focused on the presentation that you can't experience anxiety, or you'll be unable to focus on the presentation because you keep worrying about what everyone in the room is thinking.

Do you see the difference?

Anxiety can not occur while you are present in the moment.

Anxiety can only occur if you allow your thoughts to go unchecked worrying about things that aren't actually happening in the moment.

I can not stress this point enough.

In every single situation where you feel anxious, you are letting your thoughts create "what-if" scenarios that do not exist.

"What-if I trip over my words," "what-if I say something dumb," "what-if I spill."

All you do by thinking about those what-ifs is drive yourself crazy.

Luckily for you, there are ways of handling those what-ifs.


Strategy 1 - "What If"

Of the two strategies to handle the dreadful "what-if" the first one is quite surprising to a lot of people.

I call it, taking the "what-if" seriously.

Most people don't, they think of the worst case and let themselves become increasingly anxious, but the one thing most people do not do is take it seriously, they never finish answering their own question.

Let's borrow one of the "what-ifs" from above, "what if I say something dumb."

Okay, what if you did say something dumb?

What if you're in a huge circle of highly respectable people that you want to impress, actually lets up the stakes.

This group of people included your boss and their bosses and your company has to make layoffs soon and you say something dumb in front of all of them.

What would happen, realistically?

Momentary embarrassment followed by a change of subject by someone else.

Or do you think something more dramatic would happen?

Maybe if that group was a league of supervillains they would all conspire later in the evening to fire you on the basis of that one remark and then remind you of it every day forever and tell all their supervillain friends about it.

I doubt they are a league of supervillains, but hopefully, this illustrates my point.

Next time you notice yourself becoming anxious and creating a lot of "what-if" scenarios, try walking yourself through a legitimate answer by taking that question seriously.

Strategy 2 - Mindfulness

The second strategy I want to explore today is mindfulness.

As we have more than adequately identified, anxiety is the worry about something that isn't happening.

It's a stormcloud of thoughts about something that doesn't even exist.

The remedy?

Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice of attuning your attention to the present moment without judgment.

One of the best ways to do this is by walking yourself through your senses.

Start by closing your eyes and listening; what are 2-3 things that you can hear?

Then move to smell, touch, taste, and finally open your eyes.

This very simple practice puts you totally and completely into the present moment, without judgment.

It's simple mindfulness.

The more you practice this, the more you will want to practice, and the more relaxed you will become.

We are so inundated with visual stimulation that we become caught in this vortex, but if you can start mindfulness by closing off that stimulation and shift gears to mindfulness, you'll almost instantly become completely calm.

Then, when you finally open your eyes you'll be able to notice your surroundings with a new attentiveness and appreciation.

It doesn't take hours of hard work and endless meditation, just a few moments throughout the day.

Give it a try and see, feel, hear, smell, and taste the difference.

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Conclusion

taking the "what-ifs" seriouslyAnxiety is a very sneaky mental process.

It knows that we spend the vast majority of our lives thinking about things, and it hijacks our thoughts and pulls the reigns to the scariest and most awful possibilities.

Or at least, that's how it seems.

But remember, you can't both be anxious and attentive at the same time, one of those has to take priority.

There are multiple methods of conquering anxiety.

The two we discussed today include taking the "what-ifs" seriously by actually answering the question in full and realistically exploring what would actually happen.

The second option we discussed was mindfulness.

The practice of being present-minded without judgment.

Anxiety is worry about something that is not happening in the moment.

Mindfulness is the submersion of your focus, through the senses, to the reality of the moment.

Take control of your mind, and don't let anxiety rob you of the moment, it's all we have.

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April 18th, 2024

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