The cycle of anxiety
We all worry about things that threaten us but often we overestimate the threat and fear it more than we need to. When we feel the fear, we assume we won’t be able to cope with the threat. Many times we are wrong and this is what we need to focus on when we feel anxious.
If we feel anxious, it seems logical to do things to reduce that anxiety. Avoiding a situation is one way that we can avoid anxiety. It will certainly decrease anxiety initially but it only works on the short term and actually makes anxiety worse in the long run as we become more fearful of the world around us. The more we avoid, the more the fear grows and when we avoid situations we fear, we never learn the skills to cope and show ourselves that we cope better than we thought we would. We never get to test out our predictions when we avoid things. Stop avoiding and start approaching.
These things that we do to reduce our anxiety are known as safety behaviours. We do them to feel safe. Again – they only work for a short while.
Examples of safety behaviours: avoidance, withdrawal, overthinking, over-eating, being excessively tidy, people pleasing, being too busy, etc
Reversing the cycle of anxiety
Gradually begin confronting scary situations.This will lead to improved confidence. Start with small steps and work your way up to situations that create the most anxiety. Keep repeating the behaviour – you need to keep putting yourself into situations that you fear in order to overcome them. Anxiety is a feeling that needs to be managed and unfortunately, it will probably be a constant companion to a certain degree. It’s when anxiety becomes unmanageable and interferes significantly with everyday functioning that it really needs to be addressed professionally – by a therapy or counsellor.
Accept that a certain amount of anxiety is normal for all of us and it is the body’s way of preparing us for action. It can be a good thing so learn to accept and manage your anxiety rather than fear it.