Is It Time to Thank Your Anxiety?
If you’ve lived with an anxiety disorder for a while, you have probably tried several strategies when you feel your anxiety creeping up on you. Maybe you have felt ashamed of your anxiety or tried to just will it away.
Perhaps you have even felt angry at your anxiety for coming up at all the wrong times. Maybe you just ignored the worries or bottled them up for as long as you could. In all likelihood, these learned behaviors didn’t keep the anxiety at bay.
Maybe it’s time for a new approach. Perhaps it’s time to thank your anxiety. Or, more accurately, maybe it’s time to tell your anxiety, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
When you understand and acknowledge what your anxiety is trying to do for you, then you can allow it to move on. It may feel corny or uncomfortable at first, but learning to thanks negative emotions for trying to help can be the next step in living a happier life.
Get help with anxiety.
We're here for you.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is your body’s natural and sometimes healthy response to stressors. When you perceive something as unsafe, anxiety helps you get out of the situation. It’s how humans have survived as long as we have.
If a caveman heard rumblings in the nearby bushes, his heart rate may quicken, his body may increase its adrenaline output, and his pupils may dilate. All of these responses and more leave the body in a state of heightened awareness. So, when the time comes, he can fight, flee, freeze, or fawn to stay alive.
Read More: Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn
This fear becomes a disorder when the perceived fear is significantly larger than the real danger. Panic attacks are prime examples of this issue. The body and mind perceive something as an imminent threat to your physical safety, so you may experience many of the symptoms of someone who is face-to-face with a tiger. However, you are not in physical danger, so all that fear has nowhere to go.
Anxiety is Trying to Keep You Safe
Whatever the fear is that triggers your anxiety is real, even if it’s not as threatening as your mind perceives it to be. For example, if your boss is upset with you, it’s perfectly normal to be concerned about it. Anxiety takes it to another level and believes your life is in immediate danger.
But anxiety isn’t doing this to ruin your life, though it may feel that way. This reaction to stress is trying to help you; it’s just not doing a very good job of it. So maybe it’s time to acknowledge the effort.
Making Peace with Anxiety
When living with a mental health condition, it can be easy to get mad at your own mind. You might belittle yourself or get mad that you live with a disorder that other people never have to tackle. Those feelings are valid, but they won’t go far in helping you overcome obstacles.
What if, just once, you tried understanding, thanking, and dismissing your anxiety.
Three steps to handling anxiety:
- Discover the cause. Sometimes it’s not obvious. Try to figure out what made your mind and body want to come to the rescue. Gentle, nonjudgmental curiosity is the key in this step.
- Acknowledge and thank your emotions. Try saying something like, “Hey, my brain is trying to protect me from this thing, and that’s causing some fear. Thanks for trying!”
- Let the emotions go. Once you’ve acknowledged why those feelings came up, use the same logic to let them go. “I am safe at this moment,” is a simple and effective statement that can help.
What do you think? Is this approach something you would be willing to try? If you’re not sure how you should cope with your anxiety, be sure to reach out to a licensed therapist for more personalized guidance.