“I just want to feel better.” “How do I get rid of my anxiety?” – this is what I hear so often from parents and young adults.
The constant worry about what's next, the frenzied feeling of trying to 'be ready', interrupted sleep, digestion issues are exhasusting. For those who experience more intense symptoms or panic attacks, it’s really awful to feel the tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, and pounding heart – the body reacts as though it is truly in danger. Even if what triggered the anxiety or stress response was thinking about something that has not yet happened, and may not ever happen.
Our impulse, and logic, directs us to avoid the situations that may create these feelings in our bodies. So we stay home, don’t interview for the job, don’t try out for the team, don’t try new things… we collapse our lives into fragments of what we truly value. Because we want to avoid those feelings in our bodies.
And it doesn’t work.
The research is clear on this: The more we try to avoid the triggers, the bigger the fear and anxiety of those triggers gets. Yet we continue to retreat from signals, cues, thoughts of…
The more we think about how NOT to have anxious thoughts… well – just try NOT thinking about a polar bear.
So now what? If avoiding the triggers, the anxious situations, the anxious thoughts is a part of the cycle that can actually inflame the symptoms of anxiety – how do we improve our quality of life? Because anxiety sucks.
The answer is that we change the power of it. By changing our relationship to the thoughts and feelings that lead to increasing symptoms of anxiety, we take away its power. We create our own agency to lead lives that are in the service of what matters most to us.
Easier said than done, yes. And totally doable. Learning the skills of psychological flexibility can support this shift. Becoming more psychologically flexible and support changing how you relate to those anxious thoughts and the feelings that come with them – so that you can engage in behaviors that move you toward your values, rather than staying stuck.
Watch this space for more on supporting you or your anxious child. Or contact us for more resources across the spectrum from coaching to referrals to clinical support.