Anxiety is an emotion that can become more ingrained and louder when you try to push it away or avoid it. Being aware of anxiety is one of the most important first steps to overcome it. Looking at your anxiety decreases the emotional charge and allows space for your body and mind to settle.
There is a wonderful technique developed by the creator of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Dr. Aaron Beck called A-W-A-R-E. Try this the next time you feel that first twinge of anxiety, and you might be able to stop it in its tracks.
1. Accept the anxiety. Recognize it and identify it. “Hello, anxiety. I feel you.” Be kind to yourself, and try not to allow it to make you feel frustrated or upset or to think negative thoughts about yourself, others, or the world. Accept it for the emotion that is, remembering that fighting against it only extends it.
2. Watch your anxiety objectively. Remind yourself that it is not good or bad; it just is. You can try to objectively rate the experience from 0 to 10 and watch as the numbers fluctuate. Or try a more mindful approach by encouraging yourself to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings while remembering that they are temporary. Imagine your thoughts and feeling on a leaf at the top of a stream, floating away and becoming smaller and smaller as you breathe.
3. Act with the anxiety. Continue to go about your daily life. Move with and through the anxiety. You may need to take breaks, move more slowly, or remind yourself to breathe, but keep going! Remember that you are in control, and acting with your anxiety puts you back in the driver’s seat! Avoiding anxiety only increases it.
4. Repeat steps 1 through 3. Watch as your anxiety decreases, especially now that you are in control, not your anxiety! Accept, watch, and act.
5. Expect the best. Anxiety is a normal part of life, and we will all experience it from time to time. However, it no longer has to be something that is feared. It is an emotion that you can manage. Remind yourself of the successes you’ve had in the past with managing your anxiety, and use it to this to give you confidence that you can handle it once again.
Practice these techniques so that you can hone your new skills, and when you are experiencing anxiety, you can use the AWARE strategy to help you to cope. This strategy is a good tool to use in addition to therapy, and therapy is still beneficial to address the deeper causes of your anxiety. For additional help with managing your anxiety, reach out to schedule an appointment.