Logic might say that healing anxiety comes from stopping it. For example: trying to control anxious thoughts or avoid situations that make you anxious seem like they might be ways to get relief from anxiety. But relating to your anxiety like this is actually making it worse.
Anxiety works kind of like whack a mole– you know that game where you hit one groundhog and another one pops up somewhere else? Anxiety will find its way to expression and if you try to solve/stop one thing (like avoid social situations or doctors if that’s what brings up anxiety) it will show up another way (like by waking you up in the middle of the night or bringing up worries about money).
So what actually helps?
Recognizing that there are good parts of your anxiety.
Anxiety does actually help you plan, be conscientious and get things done. Because you worry about forgetting or you have anxiety when things are “on your plate”, or you don’t like feeling uncertain, you create a plan of action. All that works in your favor if it’s done in balance.
Look for ways your anxiety is actually working for you. In other words, make friends with it.
“When we are anxious, our attention shifts to things that are important in our lives. It makes us recognize things that deserve our attention and then becomes instrumental in preparation and motivation.” (Meek, Will. “5 Ways Anxiety Can Be Helpful.” Very Well Mind. January 25, 2021. https://www.verywellmind.com/top-ways-anxiety-is-helpful-1393079)
Remember that it’s a coping strategy that your system developed to prepare to deal with difficult things. It might need an upgrade, but it’s not all bad.
Get curious about it
Speaking of making friends with it… instead of trying to stop it all the time, get curious about it when it comes up.
Practice noticing what anxiety feels like in your body. Practice noticing when anxiety is coming up–take notes in your phone: what time of day, what situations usually bring it up. Try to identify the emotions that are present leading up to it and in the moments after.
When you start to notice the patterns, get curious about what those times of day or those situations are, or what has been anxiety producing for you in the past. For example, if you get anxious in social situations: have compassion for that and see if there might need to be an update. It looks like: “ yes, I had a hard time making friends in school or I was bullied, but I have friends now, which means I’m capable of making friends”. This is creating safety around something that your system was conditioned to respond to as unsafe.
Studying your anxiety will help you understand it better. Once you become in tune with what triggers your anxiety and how it affects you, you will be able to accept it and use it to your advantage.
Learning that anxiety is not all bad will help you realize that trying to stop it is not the right strategy. Your anxiety can motivate you to implement some good habits and it can help you prepare and protect yourself. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t downsides to anxiety or times that you may need help managing it. We share more info on what anxiety is and its benefits in a previous blog HERE.
If you’re not sure what the patterns mean or would like support in working with your anxiety so it can become more helpful than unhelpful, contact us.