Are you dominated by anxious thoughts and feelings? Do you despair of being free of Anxiety? You may think I am nuts to say so if dealing with anxiety is ruling your life, but you are much, much bigger than anxious thoughts and emotions. Anxiety is not You. Thoughts are not you. Emotions are not you.
I want to introduce you to the idea that rather than trying to get rid of anxious thoughts and feelings, you can tame them. Not entirely, and just as well, because that would quell your creativity, excitement and enthusiasm.
Anxiety is an innate primitive signalling system that you are in danger, which is meant to be transitory. If it is prolonged you have allowed it to get bigger than it needs to be. Don’t get into blame or guilt about this because that only adds to negativity. Instead, being playful and imaginative can be a good step when you are dealing with anxiety.
Here’s how to get started with my creative 4 step plan towards overcoming anxiety:
1. Give anxiety a shape and character
If anxiety were a character separate to you what would it look like? Imagine it as a size you could place on your desk or in your pocket. If it looms large – shrink it. What sort of personality does your character have? Is it like the zen “mad monkey of the mind” darting all over the place distracting you? Could it be a little horned devil? Would it be a little freaked out person, shrinking with jitters?
2. Give your anxiety character a name.
It could just be “the Worrier”, for example. Find a small object to represent “the worrier” and put it in your pocket. You are much bigger and cleverer than your worrier. Just giving anxiety a shape, name and a character gives you more control over it. Have some fun with this. Humour helps gain perspective and perspective is powerful.
3. Discover the purpose of your anxiety
Now, here is the interesting part of dealing with anxiety. What is this little character endeavouring to achieve for you? What is it whispering or shouting at you? It has a positive intention for you however clumsily it goes about it and however out of date it may be. Is it trying to keep you safe and out of danger? How? Was it essential in the past but no longer helpful? Think about this in as detached and objective a way that you possibly can. This will trigger more highly evolved centres of the mind than anxiety which comes from the primitive limbic system of the brain. And again, this will put you back in control. Just recognising what your character is trying to do for you is a key step to taming anxiety. Try this for yourself or find a coach with whom you can have a creative collaboration on this.
4. Be the boss over your anxiety (kindly)
Is the danger really a threat to life and limb or only to the ego? Does it belong in your past but spoiling the present and hampering your future? Be the overseer and make a realistic assessment. It may be a bit of a shock to your character to be told it is over-reacting or living in the past so thank and reassure your character of good job done, that you understood their message and will take care of the situation.
Understand that anxieties only get bigger if you ignore them when they shout louder to get your attention, or if you feed them with too much attention. So get them in perspective and remember that there are effective steps you can take when coping with anxiety.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!