More Roadblocks and Detours

14.09.2016 |

Episode #7 of the course How to overcome your anxiety by Eileen Purdy MSW, M.Ed.


Let’s face it—no one likes unexpected delays. Troubleshooting on the front end of making changes will pay huge dividends on the back end. This second day of focusing on possible behavioral obstacles to overcoming your anxiety will help you get to your destination faster.

The key to overcoming our worry and anxiety is to label our thoughts false alarms and then turn our attention to something else. Turning our attention sounds easy enough, so you might be surprised that you’d put up any resistance.

There are a few hidden reasons that may trip you up. See if any might relate to you.

• Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that helped create them.” But you don’t need to think or do things differently because you used to be able to control things your own way.

• You’re afraid you’re going to miss something important if you don’t keep your focus on your worry or anxiety.

• Doing new things takes effort. You promise to do this when the kids go back to school and things settle down a little.

• You read that worrying helps calm the limbic system because it makes you feel like you are doing something to help your situation. Plus it just feels better to worry. So you want to stick with what feels known.

• There are so many things you want to change about your life that you’re not happy about. You actually don’t want to be aware of the here and now. You know it’s sad, but you’re being honest.

• You’re afraid to fail. What if you do all this and it still doesn’t work? It’ll confirm that you are going to have this your whole life. You don’t want to know that.

As you know, changing behavior is difficult. We are especially challenged when we are trying to turn away from a highly charged and very familiar emotion like anxiety, worry, and judgment. One possible related reason is that neuroscientists have discovered that shame and guilt activate reward centers in our brains. So if you are feeling a pull to stay your course, it makes sense.

A conscious decision to pick the road less traveled and take on a new response to your anxiety can be aided by this exercise: Identify YOUR main inner obstacle (what gets in your way) to behavior change, either from the list above or a different one you can think of. Then, when you realize you are being hooked by that reason not to change your worry or anxiety, label it a false alarm, grab control of your breath, and focus on something concretely in the here and now.

Change isn’t easy. BUT it does get easier every single time we do it. Eventually “not worrying” or “not feeling anxious” will become your second nature.


Recommended book

“Anxiety as an Ally: How I Turned a Worried Mind into My Best Friend” by Dan Ryckert


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