So much of anxiety is excess activity. The terrorist in your head takes over your mental radio and spins the worst case scenario track all day. You say something inadvertent and possibly unflattering and you direct 1000 dramatic recreations in your head where you revise the script and the outcome to make yourself the hero. Or you lay down at night to finally relieve yourself of the day’s cognitive burden only to find that the mental terrorist has declared that it’s time to castigate you for failing to finish your to do list for a month from now.
Over time, I’ve seen that it’s helpful to have anti-goals in place — things that work to avoid and undo precisely because this benign neglect alleviates anxiety.
Criticism of every slip up, error, oversight: Building Self-Compassion
I’ve written before about silencing the hater in my head Kylie. She has never left me and probably never will. But I have shifted how I deal with her. I used to punish myself for all the terrible words she threw my way.
What I don’t do: Indulge in a shame spiral where I search for points of criticism like the words I wish that I didn’t say and the way I raise my eyebrows and reveal my true opinion.
What I do instead: I thank Kylie for coming to the table and invite my more rational mind to contribute. Just because Kylie shows up to every party does not mean she has to be the focus. That voice is there for a reason. I try to think of at least three reasons that the situation didn’t turn out the way I expected. Pro-Tip: Always include your expectations in this list.
Questioning every option and dilemma: Building Trust
Anxiety does a number on your ability to trust yourself. Every time I need to make a big decision, the worst part is knowing if I’m really sure. Is Kylie right and there’s a hidden danger I’m not aware of? Or maybe I’m being too rational and doing what “makes sense” vs listening to my emotions and intuition. It’s normal to doubt tough choices, but I draw the line at mental rumination: rolling over the same pros and cons list and likely scenarios without end.
What I don’t do:
Once these kind of questions start emerging, I take a step back and remind myself that everything is fixable and figure-out-able (HT Marie Forleo). It’s much healthier for me to let go of the post-decision gauntlet and not mire myself in anti-trust quicksand.
Focusing on the negative: Building Resilience
Anxiety is like one of those Men in Black flashy lights for your achievements. In one second, you forget the grief you have overcome or the struggle you converted into a success. The only thing you know for sure is that the party is over and the world has ended. Dramatics aside, the propensity to leap to the worst case scenario and set up shop there is a surefire way to keep you stuck in whatever adversity you have encountered.
What I don’t do: Dwell in the negativity for the sake of asking why me.
What I do instead: Sometimes life just sucks. And you feel bad about it. To keep from wallowing, I will re-read old journals where I can see how I moved crappy life situations in the past.