Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is it possible to LOVE your Anxiety?

So much of our time is spent running from our anxiety. Doing anything to avoid it. And when it appears, fighting it and trying to ignore it. We all hate our anxiety. We talk about it all the time, about what a burden it is to us and our families. About how we just want to be normal and rid of this horrible plague in our lives.
But what if we tried to love it instead?

I came across this blog post from a fellow blogger named Anxiety Girl that really takes this and turns it upside down. Its about learning to love our anxiety and look for ways to bring it into our lives instead of avoiding it. It makes sense because we do need to face our fears and the more we do, the less the anxiety will become. So I wanted to share with you her post because I think its so awesome! Thanks Anxiety Girl for sharing this wonderful insight!

What are you willing to risk?

"So, I've been talking about this weekend treatment group I attended in November with Reid Wilson – a world renowned psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety disorders. Something he asked right from the beginning was, what have you avoided or given up as a result of your anxiety? And, now, what are you willing to risk to gain those things back?

So much of the work is a change of attitude and asking the question every time anxiety arises – what am I willing to risk? If I’m feeling anxious one day & someone asks to meet for coffee – am I willing to risk that I might feel anxious & that they might notice? Because, choosing NOT to go because of something that MIGHT happen will only strengthen the anxiety. Choosing to have someone else join us or having an out is still avoidance and strengthens the anxiety as well.

The second piece of that attitude shift is learning to love my anxiety – to get excited that I’ll have another opportunity to practice with feelings of anxiety and doubt/uncertainty. That’s a hard attitude shift, but the only way to win. As Dr.Wilson said, we’ve been worshipping at the altar of anxiety for far too long – We bow down and plead – “Please anxiety, I’ll do anything – just please don’t make me feel edgy & out of control – I can’t bear it”. The shift also encompasses changing your relationship with anxiety. When you begin feeling nervous – perhaps the adrenaline is flowing through your chest, your heart is pounding and you’re telling yourself that bad things are about to happen - you can talk to your anxiety & ask it to make the symptoms stronger. If you’re going to feel symptoms anyways, why not surprise the bully and invite anxiety to take it’s coat off and stay a while.

Something I loved about the weekend was Reid’s “Anxiety Disorders Game” that we played during lunch and night time breaks. We all got score cards and were able to earn points by doing some of the following:

*Deciding what anxiety provoking event we would enter and following through.
*Truly wanting anxiety to show up and asking for more when it did (with an understanding of why we were practicing this way).
*Extra points could be scored for every minute you asked for more anxiety and you got your wish.

A fly on the wall might have overheard people planning their practices like this:

“Well, I think I’m gonna go to lunch, keep changing my order & maybe spill my drink on purpose. I hate drawing attention to myself, so that should make me really uncomfortable. Afterwards, I’ll probably ride in the big elevator and try to make myself hyperventilate.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna go driving around the city, try to get lost & then find my way back. That should get me good & panicky. You do have your cell phone on, right?”

“I’m going to ride in the back of someone’s car with the windows up, heat on & the music blaring. I think that will trigger my claustrophobia and earn me some bonus points.”

On Sunday, during our lunch practice, I drove myself on the downtown expressway for a meal at Elmo’s Diner (delicious!). Reid reminded me that once I got to my destination, and knew where I was, I would probably feel comfortable. Since the weekend was about working with anxiety, discomfort and doubt, he encouraged me to try & think of ways I could make myself more uncomfortable. I was also looking for ways to score more points in the game.

So, as I sat down at the counter, ordered and found myself happy and making small talk with local folks, I remembered what Reid had said. Then something came to mind. Part of my anxiety is feeling embarrassed about it. Oh shit, I thought, as I pulled out my “Self Help for People with Panic Attacks” book and read it at the counter while eating my lunch. As I read, I made sure that the cover was very visible to all those sitting at the counter and to those waiting in line. I thought about how I had encouraged a person with social anxiety to skip through the mall as a practice and how this was just as hard for me.

I put the book down at one point, asked the couple sitting next to me at the counter for advice on the menu. Scoring a few more points, I thanked them and decided to order something else, letting go of the thought that they might be thinking, “Why did she bother asking?”

Coming back from lunch, I put my points on the board, grabbed a prize out of the basket (scotch tape!) and settled in to talk about my experience and learn from the experiences of others. The signs posted around the room reminded me that these were my road maps for the anxiety journey ahead.

I want this anxiety.
I want this doubt and uncertainty.
I can handle this.


What's holding you back? What are you willing to risk in your day to day life? And, what are your road maps?"

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9 comments:

messymama said...

Does the fact that just IMAGINING doing any of this totally freaked me out, mean anything? lol. I need to turn this over in my mind a while longer but so far, I totally agree with what she's saying.

I have noticed so much that the less I fight the anxiety, the quicker it goes away. I'm thinking that welcoming it, and looking for opportunity to encourage it, would really work...I don't want it to always be lurking in the back of my mind as something that could show up at any time and take me by surprise. That worry alone keeps me from doing certain things. If I was looking for it, and wanting it, it wouldn't be the enemy anymore...

Okay, off to ponder. Thanks for th epost!

Blogger with Ocd said...

I am all about purposefully triggering my anxiety!!



Bloggerwithocd just posted about what OCD is like from her husband's perspective at www.itsmewithocd.blogspot.com.

Anonymous said...

thank you that was an awesome post. I'm happy to come accoross this blog. I'm learning a lot more about my anxiety and how to cope with it. My anxiety just started a few months ago when i suffered a miscarriage and having surgery after the miscarriage. I'm still learning more about it so i'll be sure come visit your blog again to read and learn more about anxiety and how to cope.

Patrick said...

This reminds me of a week where I was having probably the worst anxiety of my life. I went to my counselor and he suggested something that sounded absolutely crazy at the time. I'm sitting there with him and my wife (who came this time to see if there was anything she could do to help) and he had me work my anxiety up to as much as I could.

After this he give me the bad news. Ha. He said he wanted me to spend the next week doing everything I could do make my anxiety the worst I could. I realized quickly in those next few days that trying to make your anxiety worse will initially suck, but give you this sense of power over the anxiety which is just amazing.

Going in the next week was great, he had a pretty big smile on his face when I came in because he already knew what I had learned. There are times when I revert to letting the anxiety control and scare me, but those few days really changed my fight.

Sam said...

Great info on anxiety, it has been difficult for me to really get moving on addressing my problem, I was reading about the secondary benifit of weight grain on
Emotional Brain Training News, wonder if it is the same with anxiety.

Thanks for your words!

Anxiety Girl said...

Hi Aimee & all,

Thanks for posting my post on "What are you willing to risk?" It really is a cool concept - using paradox to work with anxiety and actually asking your anxiety to make it worse (when inside we just want to make it go away!). I highly recommend Reid Wilson's book "Facing Panic" & his weekend workshop. The weekend is not the cure all for anxiety, but a good jumping off point. I'm so glad it was helpful & it's nice to make this connection! :)

Messymama - you can even do the "bring it on" approach just with your anxious thoughts at first if imagining that practice makes you anxious. Maybe take 20 minutes a day, imagine asking your anxiety to give you it's best shot, and when it does, imagine you asking for more. Then, try bringing it on with your least frightening situations and work your way up. I'd love to know how it goes. One of my favorite phrases to write on coping cards is "Stir up trouble for yourself". Take care!

Seb said...

Great post! This is very helpful. I'm sure I'd visit your site more often. Anyway, you can drop by my favorite online hang out too, at UK Student Community. Thanks!

Overthee Hill said...

This is a terrific post. Thanks for posting it.

ShanMac said...

Is it strange that reading this made me a bit giddy with hope? Wow, the idea of embracing my anxiety instead of shoving it away constantly is novel to me. Just reading this made me feel a bit better. Anxiety is probably my oldest friend and part of me loves it, nurtures it and wants it around. So maybe I can keep it around but I don't always have to pay it so much attention.

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