How to Deal with Anxiety by Changing the Way You Think About It
This anxiety remedy uses your own sense of curiosity. Kyle, my sweet cat pictured here, is a Master of Curiosity. Even without any counseling, I think you’ll be surprised at how well this technique works with humans.
When not sleeping, Kyle usually exists in a constant state of tension between caution and curiosity. The whole time, his brain is running through possible scenarios. As long as he doesn’t know, he will continue to wonder… and be compelled to investigate and explore.
Our experience of anxiety – racing heart, jittery body, muscles tight – is enough to scare anybody. Add to that, your mind thinks up scary stuff that could happen, or that might be happening already. And we feel so powerless to do anything about it. And that’s why this method works so well. You DON’T DO ANYTHING to try to MAKE yourself feel better.
If we look deep enough, we can find the source of our stress. Usually it is our primitive mind’s worries and anxious thoughts that are trying to protect us from real or imagined danger. It tells us things like, “I can’t handle it …I’m going to fail …They’ll hate me …I’ll lose everything …I’m going to die.” Most of the time, instead of looking inside for the source of our panic or anxiety, we want to run and avoid everything. Often we isolate ourselves so much that we become depressed too.
This effective technique suggests you do the opposite of what you may usually do. But when you try it, you’ll feel its power immediately. It is based on cognitive behavioral therapy. And some acceptance and mindfulness too. Here’s the process:
Let’s say you feel anxiety inside of you, either that persistent tension and uneasiness as the backdrop to all you do, or you feel the rush of that unpleasant feeling that signals a panic attack or flash of anxiety. Here’s what you do:
Step One: Notice Your Body
Notice the physical sensations you’re feeling in your body that you recognize as anxiety or panic. Label the sensations …mentally or aloud. This might sound like…
- racing heart
- tight shoulders
- shallow breathing
- quick breaths
- nervous stomach
Step Two: Notice Your Emotions
Notice what emotional label your mind uses to describe these physical sensations. Again, say these out loud or silently. You might label your emotions as…
Step Three: Notice and Label Your Thoughts
Now tune into the thoughts that are likely racing through your mind. Hear them, and give them a label. It might go like this:
- Thought: “I’m going to have a heart attack.” Label: Fear of death
- Thought: “I can’t think when I’m anxious like this.” Label: Fear of failure
- Thought: “Something terrible is going to happen.” Label: Fear of the unknown
- Thought: “I’m going to screw this up.” Label: Fear of shame
- Thought: “I’m afraid this anxiety will get worse.” Label: Fear of fear
Advantages of Being Curious About Anxiety
And the most important part of coping with anxiety in this way is that you can stop struggling with your anxiety. When you stop, look and label in this way, you are taking a whole new perspective on the stressful moment. Instead of experiencing it from the inside –where you are powerless to either see or change what is happening, you step outside yourself. You take on the role of the observer. And that heightened perspective can make all the difference in your world.
As the old saying goes:
Curiosity killed the cat,
Satisfaction brought him back
I interpret this to meant that Kyle runs a risk when he gives in to his curiosity, but satisfying his curiosity is vital to his sense of peace.