Are You Willing to be Anxious?

willing to be anxious

Anxiety is a disorder that can be resolved.

It all depends on your willingness to be anxious.

Your conscious decision to put yourself in the very situations that provoke anxiety is what will eventually free you from that anxiety.

It's all about personal choice and autonomy.

I know this sounds a little weird, and it is.

But the truth is, anxiety has more to do with being unfamiliar than it does with actual danger.

This is really good news because that means that the more familiar we become with our anxiety the less it will impact us.

Today we'll be diving into why exposure works, how it works, and how personal choice makes all the difference in the world.

By the end of this post, you'll be able to confidently confront your anxiety.

It won't be comfortable, but it will be more than worth your while.

Let's look at the why and how and get you started on your journey of getting over your anxiety.

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We don't get to choose what makes us anxious.

We find out what makes us anxious by how terribly we feel when we're about to do something. 

But, if you are willing to be anxious, then you can teach your mind to stop being anxious.

This happens when you choose to confront your anxieties because it tells the brain that even though the emotion is there, you can choose to be present.

99% of the time you are only anxious because you are in a position where you must do something that you've never done before.

The novelty of the experience is perceived as a threat (for some reason or another) and that creates anxiety.

The threat isn't real though, it is only a perception.

Like public speaking for instance.

Even if you stumble through it, you're physically safe, and chances are if you've practiced and taken time to prepare, you won't stumble through!

From that point on, it's just practice.

After exposing yourself to the threat over and over, by choice, your mind is forced to realize that the situation itself is not a threat at all, and that causes the anxiety response to become extinct. 

However, if you are forced to engage in that activity against your will, then that creates trauma.

It's all about choice.

How To Work on Your Anxiety

Depending on how severe your anxiety is, you may not be able to simply dive right in.

That's fine.

Take a systematic approach.

Expose yourself to what you are able to do one step at a time.

Let's use social anxiety as an example.

Start with thinking about what it's like to talk to strangers or be in social situations.

Once you start to feel that anxiety, sit with it and notice how it makes you feel.

Then repeat that until the thought no longer evokes the anxiety.

Then pretend your friend, sibling, parent, or someone you know well is someone you've never met (this is a little embarrassing but that's the point).

Pretend they are someone new and start a conversation with them.

Notice how you feel, and be attentive to your internal state.

Then systematically work you're way up to being in bigger and bigger groups.

Again, it has to be by your choice, you are willing to be anxious, remind yourself of that with every exposure.

If it gets to be too much, take a step back.

Slow progress is still progress.

Why Exposure Works

We touched on this earlier but it deserves some more attention.

Our brains haven't caught up to our societies.

Our anxiousness responds to discomfort often as if it is life-threatening.

That's because our emotional centers are hundreds of thousands of years old and still getting used to the idea that we are unbelievably safe.

Minor discomforts or moments of awkwardness are still interpreted as life-threatening and that sparks anxiety.

But regularly exposing yourself, by choice, to those situations forces your brain to reconcile the perceived threat with the real threat.

The real threat is either not a threat at all, or at most a few moments of discomfort that nobody else cares about but you.

Once your brain realizes the situation isn't a threat, the anxiety goes away.

This process is called the extinction process.

Just like the dinosaurs we can make anxiety go extinct as well by confronting the very things that make us anxious.

It's all a matter of getting your brain on board with recognizing that you are safe, despite feeling otherwise.

It takes work, but it works!

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Like many things in life, anxiety doesn't just go away because you want it to.

It requires conscious choice, and a willingness to be anxious. 

A willingness to be uncomfortable.

Just like exercise, it's uncomfortable, but discomfort is the soil that inspires growth.

If you can retrain the way you think about discomfort, then your growth potential is boundless.

Be willing to be anxious, choose to put yourself in the situations you most fear, and you will overcome those fears. 

Allow your brain the opportunity to confront the perceived threat and recognize through good coping skills and exposure that it has nothing to worry about.

Give yourself the chance to conquer your anxiety.

You won't regret it.

Also, you don't have to conquer it all at once.

Take your time, take baby steps.

Go to the point of discomfort stay as long as you can and then exit.

Repeat that process and before you know it you'll have extinguished your anxiety.

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March 25th, 2023

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