Ever find yourself worrying and fretting? can’t sleep? over-thinking and analysing? In everyday life, we can be happy, optimistic, and connected to a life of meaning and purpose. Then something happens, we experience a disconnect from our personal power. A sense of purpose replaced by a sense of loss somehow? Optimistic outlook replaced by fear-laden imagined futures? How did that happen? That key presentation you were to make for work becomes an opportunity for fear and apprehension. Many people don’t realise anxiety is a problem you can beat.
Anxiety is an overestimation of threat coupled with an underestimation of personal resourcefulness. In simple terms, we regard the future as holding challenges that are far greater than our power to meet those challenges. Anxiety is about the future. Whether this be an imminent or a distant future anxiety experiences deliver very similar consequences:
■. Instead of enthusiasm, there is apprehension
■. We construct imagined scenes of future personal disaster
■. We engage in critical self-talk, blaming, self-criticism. We beat ourselves up!
■. We retreat from feared contexts, avoid social interaction
■. We retreat into substance abuse, time-wasting internet use, or other “protective measures”
■. We lose sight of difference between the possible and probable. “we are doomed for sure”
■. We forget personal power, come to the conclusion that power in this imagined future is beyond our reach.
Some useful skills
- Test your evidence. This is an excellent early step. Is what I am deciding about the future true? Is it absolutely true? are there other possible interpretations of the meanings I am making with my thoughts about the future.
- Distinguish between the possible and the probable. In this imagined feared future, is what is possible actually probable? Really? Try out alternative “realities” consider other possible outcomes.
- Light physical exercise (may require physician approval). regular light exercise can help expand your perspective.
- Remember what you’re forgetting. It is characteristic of unhelpful behaviour patterns that we forget. We forget our power, wisdom, resourcefulness. As you look into your past you are likely to meet experiences that are similar to the one that is feared now. Noticing what you have survived, risen above, or even triumphed over can be an important correction in perspective.
- Focus on what you want. When considering this awful future event, identify what you would like to see happen. Devote energy to focus on details of your preferred, desired outcome. Imagining this can help provide balance to catastrophising at least and may point up real solution opportunities.
- Consider available resources. Asking for help in difficult times indicates personal resourcefulness not failure! It is worth remembering that when you were born, you were equipped with the ability learn any of the languages in the world, to decipher sounds into meaningful communication experiences, to extend and reach and evolve. Many strengths are yet untapped. Soldiers in basic training are instructed to hold their weapon at arms’ length. After a time, the weight becomes too much and down it goes. At this point an order is barked to get the thing up again and, suddenly, there is the strength to repeat the exercise. Hidden reserves are very interesting and worth seeking.
- Lose the “shoulds”, “have to’s”, and “musts”. When engaging in self-critical self-talk, we usually issue directions about what we have failed to do or what we “have” to do. Just imagine the idea that you’ve always done the very best you could with available resources. This can provide a window of opportunity to lighten up just a little, or a lot, and permit more intelligent than emotional reasoning.
Ultimately, connecting with the reality that we are usually greater than our problems is very useful. Understanding anxiety as a chosen process rather than some form of superior affliction is very useful. Knowing you have been through lots of difficult times before and there can be clues about how to respond to future challenges if we know where in our past to look. The 7 tips outlined here, are just hints to encourage questioning the taken-for-granted assumptions that support the activation of anxiety strategies and replace them with more resourceful, powerful, wise responses to unpredictable futures.
Support from a suitably qualified psychotherapist and clinical hypnotist can prove excellent to help you beat anxiety. For good!