Change Your Mind About Anxiety
It is easy to forget that anxiety — a feeling of apprehension, uneasiness, or fear — is a normal human emotion. You might experience it as something physical, like sweating, trembling, or even nausea, or perhaps you feel irritable, worried, or “on edge.”
Just like other emotions such as sadness or anger, we all experience anxiety in some situations and to some degree, and most of the time this is not a big problem; we feel a little anxious about taking a test or meeting new people, but we pass our exams or make new friends in spite of that feeling. A little anxiety can even spur us on to give our best performance in school, at work, or even in athletics.
Sometimes, though, we fuel our anxiety so that it takes on a life of its own. Maybe you, like many people, think of anxiety as being something bad, something you should never feel. Maybe you equate anxiety with weakness, and this leads you to feel ashamed about being anxious. You start out feeling a little nervous, then you begin to experience shame because you think everyone will see you are nervous and think you are weak, and you become even more nervous as a result of the shame. Your thoughts fuel your feelings in this snowball effect that could affect your life in serious ways. Maybe you decide to avoid social engagements or turn down jobs that involve public speaking.
Is there a way to stop or control the snowball?
Yes, and one way to do this is by changing your thoughts about anxiety. Remember that anxiety is a normal emotion. You’re not going to get rid of all anxiety forever, and you shouldn’t try. It would be like trying to get rid of all sadness or anger. If you succeeded, you would be an emotionless robot.
Instead, try to shift your perspective. Reduce the pressure you put on yourself. You want to try to accept anxiety to some degree; accept that it is normal. Instead of trying to avoid anxiety or push it away, consider this response: “I am feeling highly anxious, but it’s not dangerous, it’s just an emotion and I can handle feeling it!” This type of response would stop the vicious anxiety cycle in its tracks.
Changing the way you think about anxiety will not only reduce the pressure you feel but will also cause a reduction in your overall anxiety. Remind yourself that anxiety is normal, that we all experience it, and that you can handle it.
About the Author:
Ernest Schmidt, LCSW, is a Certified Cognitive Therapist and the founder of Palo Alto Therapy. As a results-oriented practice, Palo Alto Therapy stands apart by specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) a method that more quickly and effectively brings about positive changes.
Our counselors work closely with clients in a team effort to set goals and create specific plans to work past problems and realize happier, more fulfilled lives. Under their direct and personable approach, clients tend to achieve both short and long-term lifestyle adjustments without long-term counseling.
To learn more about Palo Alto Therapy visit www.PaloAltoTherapy.com or call to schedule an appointment at 650–461–9026.