Throughout this blog, I have been giving snap shots into these 4 steps to overcoming anxiety and will continue to do so. This week, I thought it might be helpful to consolidate and define them in a more straightforward fashion…
- Education and Awareness
When people come visit me in therapy, they’re often hoping that I’m going to give them some magic tools that will rid them of anxiety forever. However, this is a common misconception about anxiety—that anxiety can be “gotten rid of.” Anxiety is a natural part of us and a natural part of life. Anxiety can be temporarily muted by things such as alcohol, drugs, binge-eating, ignoring/suppressing, etc., but anxiety can never be “gotten rid of.” Plus, you wouldn’t truly want to live without anxiety because it benefits us in terms of survival and personal growth.
Education and awareness about anxiety are essential in helping us develop a healthy mindset and relationship with anxiety. When people come see me, they typically have a very unhealthy relationship with anxiety (e.g., “Anxiety is bad.” “Anxiety is ruining my life.” “Anxiety makes me weak.”). But when we own our anxiety and see it for what it is (i.e., a system that’s hard-wired into us to protect us from danger), then we can be empowered to work through it, overcome it, and channel it toward our goals and values.
While tools can be helpful for alleviating and working through anxiety, realistically, there are going to be times in life when there are not enough tools in the world that will make you feel all better with the snap of your fingers. Sometimes in life, we have to sit in a hard, anxious place and ride it out. You will be much more equipped to do so if you have a healthy relationship with anxiety—That is, acknowledging that it is ok to feel anxiety and having grace with yourself. Educating yourself about anxiety and raising your awareness of anxiety (e.g., your triggers, your thinking processes, how you experience anxiety) will empower you to build a healthy relationship with anxiety.
2) Living by Your Values
In past blog posts, I have discussed at length the problems that arise when we intentionally or unintentionally prioritize avoidance of anxiety over our values. Values are important because they give us our “WHY.” Since anxiety is a part of life… What makes the anxiety worth it to you? What makes the stress of it all worth it to you? Our personal values can answer these questions for us.
If you have just started reading this blog, and you are wondering what values are and how to identify your own values, please see the previous blog post entitled, “An Introduction to values.”
3) Practicing Courage
Remember courage is not the absence of anxiety. Courage is having anxiety and doing it anyway. If you live your life avoiding anxiety or fighting it tooth and nail, your anxiety will strengthen and you will become consumed by it. But if you acknowledge and own your anxiety and do what you want to do despite anxiety, YOU will strengthen and your life will be fulfilling. I encourage all to live a courageous lifestyle by challenging yourself to lean into anxiety each day in a way that is consistent with your values and goals.
4) Tools and Ongoing Overcoming
Remember that overcoming anxiety is a life-long process. Over the course of this blog, I will discuss tools for the ongoing process of overcoming anxiety. Some of these tools will involve shaping a healthy mindset about anxiety and some will involve direct coping strategies for anxiety, such as mindfulness, self-compassion, self-care, and so on.
I hope this blog has been helpful for you, and I hope that you continue to follow me to learn and grow more!
Until next week,
Have courage and kind wishes!
Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.
The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.