Who doesn’t experience anxiety? It’s a natural, albeit uncomfortable, state of being that we all feel to varying degrees. Some of us are blessed that we have a natural tendency towards less anxiety or we are naturally skilled at handling it. Others, at the opposite end of the spectrum, experience debilitating anxiety that prevents us from leading fulfilling lives. Researchers have identified “intolerance of uncertainty” as an important cause of anxiety and anxiety disorders. So the process below outlines a solution that addresses uncertainty head on.
Here, is a simple process for managing everyday anxiety that I find works well for both me and my clients.
1) Externalizing the anxiety: Try thinking of the anxiety as an external thing, like a balloon floating around outside of yourself. Then you can see it not as part of yourself, but as separate and other.
2) Labeling the anxiety: Once you can separate yourself from the anxiety try naming it. Some examples are ‘not feeling good enough’, ‘social’, ‘worried about a future event’ etc. As soon as the anxiety is labeled it reduces because the balloon is no longer floating aimlessly out there it has a string attached to it.
3) Acceptance: Once the anxiety is labeled it can rationally be address by accepting the reality of the anxiety (example: ‘it’s inevitable that I will be late, but I can soothe myself by taking meaningful action or inaction’). This is like taking the string of the balloon in your hand.
4) Now and Action: By coming into the present … in other words not future forecasting, but really experiencing the present moment you can either rationally take meaningful action (pulling you car over to make a phone call to your next appointment) to deal with the anxiety or realize that this particular anxiety is based on future assumptions, not anything that is sure to happen. Once you work through this process your anxiety should be reduced. This is like popping the balloon.
If your anxiety is in the form of ruminating about a “possible” future event, check in for my next blog post, which will target this particular form of anxiety head on.