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  • Writer's pictureTed Bradshaw

Something to think about, something to do

When we are anxious about something, we can sometimes feel like if only we could change how we felt, then we would be able to act differently.

 

If I felt more confident, I could put myself forward for things.

 

If I wasn’t so stressed, I would be able to do more interesting things.

 

If I could stop myself worrying, I wouldn’t end up spending so much time checking, researching or going over and over things.

 

It makes sense because it is true. If we could click our fingers and get rid of the tense, churning, knotted feeling of anxiety, then it would be a lot easier to do whatever we wanted. If we didn’t feel any anxiety at all, maybe it would be easy to walk out on stage, speak up in a meeting, say no to things, or spend our evenings in a state of zen and calm.

 

The difficulty is: we can’t actually do that.

 

You can learn to manage your anxiety, to talk to yourself with compassion and calm, but it will usually only take you so far. That is because the anxiety response is an old, automatic response with it’s roots in our history or maybe even our nature.

 

If you have been laughed at before and you feel anxious about being judged or rejected, you can tell yourself that "it will be fine" as much as you like, but there will still be part of your mind (and certainly your body) that says “yeah, but we know that it might not be, don’t we?”

 

It is really hard (and maybe even impossible) to fully eradicate our emotional responses, and actually it is easier (scarier, but easier) to manage what we do, rather than how we feel.

 

If you find that there is always that stubborn bit of anxiety that just won’t go away and you keep trying to get rid of it, it might be that a different approach would help:

 

Trying to do good things for yourself despite the fact that it is still there.

 

What if I can try doing nice things even though my stress is still there? I might not get exactly what I want from it, but I will have a better time than if I spend the whole evening trying to force my stress to go away.

 

What if I can gradually put myself forward for things even though I am anxious about doing it? It’s a tough process to go through, but it is much more likely that I will be able to gradually start feeling less anxious about it the more I practice.

 

It’s easier to control what you do than how you feel.

 

Something to think about 

 

If you focused on living well with anxiety, rather than trying to get rid of it, what would that change about how you spend your time this week?

 

Something to do

 

The next time you feel stressed or anxious, rather than asking yourself “how can I get rid of this?” ask “if I wasn’t feeling this way, what would I do right now?” and try doing it.

 

Thanks for reading! Until next week,

 

Ted

 

P.S. it is absolutely OK to not be ready to face some things because they are too scary. Yes, you can control your actions more than you can control how you feel, but that doesn't mean you have to always dive in head first. It is OK to give yourself a break and take things slowly.

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