When you worry, you are believing the “what if’s” you tell yourself. Your fear response is activated as if there is real danger.
If you were in danger, the stress response would help you get out of it. But without a real threat to deal with, you are left with excess energy and nowhere to put it.
When anxiety is high, you can feel like you want to crawl out of your skin. It’s understandable that people want to avoid anxiety or situations that trigger anxiety.
Avoidance isn’t the solution, though. In the long run, avoidance actually reinforces your fear that you can’t handle the situation. The worry becomes cemented and self-confidence lowers.
Imagine you are worried about whether someone likes you at a dinner party, so you try to become completely calm before going to the party. Or you avoid going to the party so you can calm your worry. Either way, feeling allergic to the anxious feelings and sensations can add to the original worry over time.
So how do you carry on in spite of your fear fantasies when all you want to do is run away from your worry? Most people want to try to calm down first, but that can make you feel anxious about being anxious.
By focusing more on your thinking and choices, you can turn nervous feelings into useful energy. These five strategies will help you manage worries instead of avoiding them. It’s all about choosing what to think about and focusing on that choice.
Focus on Thinking More Than Feelings
People can worry about almost anything and be convinced their worry is true. It’s important to know the difference between your worry (anxiety = what if) and thinking (fact = what is) so you can think and act only on the facts.
Focus on Choices More Than Outcome
We are all motivated to eliminate discomfort or seek pleasure. These are outcomes we want.
But sometimes the more we focus on wanting to overcome anxiety, the more the anxiety takes hold. Instead focus on your choices, what you can do right now rather than the end result.
Focus on the Big Picture More Than the Narrow View
When you worry, you can only see a narrow viewpoint that is usually negative. Take a step back and look at the whole picture.
Who was involved in the problem you are worried about and what part did they play? Would anyone be anxious about the situation you are experiencing?
Focus on Tolerating Anxiety More Than Eliminating Anxiety
Focus on how long the anxiety lasts before it passes. While it may feel like you can’t handle the anxious feelings, it will pass.
Think about how long you have tolerated the anxious feelings. You were fine then and you will be fine now. This will help you access a different part of your brain instead of the alarm center that goes off when feeling anxious.
Focus on Goals More Than Avoidance
It may sound counter-intuitive, but you don’t have to be calm to pursue goals. In fact, some anxiety is motivating when we turn it into energy.
If the goal is more important than how nervous you feel, then focus on your goal and the steps you will keep taking. Over time you are proving to yourself you can harness the energy to pursue your goal even if you are anxious.
Using these five focusing/therapeutic strategies when worried will boost your confidence and help you face challenges. While you may not ever be symptom free, you can rise to the challenges in life and within your mind.