Anxiety is the kind of thing that can pop up when you least expect it. Some individuals recognize themselves as being anxious children growing up, worrying about their parents’ safety, fearful of not being accepted by friends, or focused on excelling in their school work. For others, it has shown up later in life, causing frustration within relationships at home or at work, and sometimes being perceived as controlling or easily flustered. Reframing anxiety from an all encompassing, debilitating presence to a protective tool can be both therapeutic and relieving.
The Anxious Self
I don’t think I recognized my anxious self until a few years ago. That’s not to say that this part of me didn’t exist before, but chances are, I minimized and compartmentalized issues until they eventually manifested in my body and mind in different ways. As anxious symptoms increased during the day, I also noticed that evenings were becoming increasingly challenging as the stillness allowed for doubts, fears, and ‘what ifs’ to creep in. It took time for me to finally lean in and allow myself to acknowledge and accept that my anxious self was working overtime to deal with my life stresses. According to Kross E, Bruehlman-Senecal E, Park J, et al., reframing anxiety as a protective tool rather than an obstacle can support the individual in regulating their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. This was an important first step in alleviating my anxiety as it allowed me to recognize that my body and mind were doing their best to protect me. Rather than pushing the anxiety away, I was able to be gentle with my anxious self and be grateful for its attempts at managing stress. I gently reminded myself that even though I could not change the past or control the future, I was able to be grateful for the present moment. In allowing myself to sit in this space, I was also able to remind myself that I, too, was worthy of peace and physical and emotional nourishment.
Healing is Often Not Linear
In addition to reframing anxiety, understand and accept that healing doesn’t always look linear. There may be days when you feel like you’re taking two steps back. Allow these days to be simple reminders that it’s time to lean in and take a break.
Reaching out for support is another way to cope with anxious thoughts. Having outside support can help you feel less alone and can provide an opportunity to learn new coping tools and strategies.
Allowing yourself to be present and mindful is another way to slow down and focus on what is manageable and true. According to Kristin Lothman, a mind-body counselor with Mayo Clinic’s Department of Integrative Medicine and Health, guided meditations are great mindfulness tools that can allow the individual to focus on the narrator as they focus on breathing and imagery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their own challenges related to anxiety, remember that you don’t have to do this alone. As clinicians, it is our greatest hope and honor to support and guide you to living a more fulfilling and stress-free life.
To talk more about reframing anxiety or any other issue, schedule time with Liz here.
Kross E, Bruehlman-Senecal E, Park J, et al. Self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: How you do it matters. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2014;106(2):304–324. doi:10.1037/a0035173