Entries in worrying (1)


Techniques to Battle Anxiety

I find myself talking about anxiety nearly daily both in my personal and professional life.  Everyone seems to have some form of it impacting their lives.  While I could talk for a very long time about what I think the underlying societal causes are, the thing that people are most interested in is how to manage their worrying.  I do not believe that there in a “one size fits all” solution to the problem.  Anxiety is a sneaky foe that takes many forms and often, when one trigger is neutralized, another emerges.  Therefore, I believe it is important to be confident that you have a toolbox full of techniques for managing your anxiety that will allow you to find relief in any situation or circumstance.  Some of the reliable tools that you should always be aware of are physical elements I have discussed at length in previous blogs: proper sleep, nutrition and exercise.  However, there are plenty of mental tools that you can use as well. 

One such technique is worry restriction.  Anxious feelings often associate themselves with particular experiences or places.  Did you know that you can actually cause insomnia by creating an association between your bed and your anxiety?  While this can be extremely frustrating to many people, causing them to have extreme anxiety about certain places or things, you can also use this association to your advantage when your worry is getting out of control.   Pick a place that is easy to access where you are not needed to perform any other tasks and make it your worry spot.  In order to make the association you may need to be able to go to this place often at first.  Set a timer and place yourself there at regular intervals.  While there you can let your worry happen unchecked.  Allow yourself to cry, stress, and, to the extent possible, come up with a plan for managing future projected worries.  When you leave your worry spot, tell yourself that you are leaving the worries there and can come back to them later. 

The second stage of the plan once you have established a strong association between your anxieties and your worry place is to create a predetermined worry time.  For example, perhaps you would like to allow yourself two “worry sessions” a day in your worry spot and limit them to fifteen minutes each.   As your association with worrying in this place grows, you can extend the time period in between “worry sessions”.  If a concern comes up in between these sessions keep a list to take to your worry spot.  For some people, worrying right after lunch will give them time to come up with a plan for a challenging project you were trying to tackle in the afternoon at work.  For others, worrying at night before they start their bedtime routine will allow them to put the anxiety away and sleep restfully.  Be thoughtful about what time of the day you will have regular access to your space and when it will most benefit you to have this type of contained anxiety.  Many people have used this method with great success to navigate stressful work or personal situations or to help improve sleep. 

It may be a good idea as you go along building your mastery of this type of restriction to also use your worry place as a testing ground for new stress management techniques.  For instance, you could use this time to practice worry journaling, mindfulness, Socratic questioning or thought replacement techniques in a quiet and safe environment.  The good news about worry restriction techniques is that they allow you to regain a sense of control over feelings that often feel out of control and help you create limits on unhealthy habits that have a tendency to increase over time if left unchecked.  You may even find yourself reaching a point where you can skip a session at your worry spot because you have gained an ability to manage your anxiety without it!  If anxiety is impacting your life, don’t just wait, take action to regain control over these feelings.