Anxiety is usually defined as fear, unease, and worry over things that haven’t happened yet. That’s how I usually experience it in my own life. I will get anxious over things that have already happened, generally whether or not I’ve made the right decision about something or said the wrong thing, but what really causes the anxiety is not knowing what effect those things are going to have on the future. Not knowing the outcome of every decision you make can be kind of daunting when you think about it! Insert: my anxiety coping skill.
Anxiety = fear.
I have learned and practiced a lot of different ways to make friends with my own anxiety. I have practiced nearly every anxiety coping skill I’ve come across. (You can find a lot of them in my Anxiety Workbook – Breathe.) Some of them have worked and some of them not so much, but when anxiety comes a-knockin’ I have a plan to deal with it. I decided long ago not to let anxiety overwhelm me.
A few days ago a bit of mild anxiety crept up and I decided to try to handle it a little bit differently. I got home and I took a few really deep breaths to calm myself. I listened to a few meditation tracks. I did a 45-minute yoga routine that specifically dealt with fear. I lit candles and incense and made tea and generally made myself feel safe, secure, and comfortable.
But let me rewind a little bit.
When you’re in a situation where you can’t just stop what you are doing and go through your anti-anxiety routines you’ve got to rely on using that lovely brain of yours. The best way to combat anxiety is with reason. This is how it works with me.
First I take a step back and look at the situation with as rational a mind as I can muster.
Then I try to figure out if the things I’m anxious about have any merit. Real, honest to goodness, likely-to-happen, merit.
If they are valid concerns I make a to-do list of how to prepare and deal. I trust myself to get those things done.
If there’s nothing that I can to do then I have to start rationalizing. “Those things aren’t going to happen. It’s going to be okay. Let it go. Take a breath.”
Sometimes the mind listens and sometimes it doesn’t. My mind gets into this never-ending loop of feeling like bad things are going to happen and outcomes are going to be disastrous.
Sometimes the rationalizing works and sometimes it doesn’t. This particular day it wasn’t working too well so I thought to myself:
What if I tried something different?
Once I reasoned with myself I built upon that. I asked myself what the opposite feeling to that anxiety/fear/worry would be and I found the answer – hope: A feeling of expectation and desire with a dash of trust. I started building upon those negative thoughts, turning them around, and allowing myself to hope that things work out to the fullest in the best possible way.
I started fighting all of those worries and scary thoughts with the best possible outcome.
When we do something scary or new, the anxiety tells us that it’s a mistake and it’s going to end horribly. That we’ll fall flat on our faces, that it just won’t work out for us, but what if… What if it is healing? What if it is exactly what you need in all the best ways?
When we allow ourselves to build on hope and how great things can be anxiety starts to lose its grasp. Sometimes things do work out better than we could hope for. Sometimes amazing things happen and it’s okay to be hopeful and to look forward to those things even when you know what the flip side looks like. Believe in hope.
“The optimist is as often wrong as the pessimist, but he is far happier.”