As promised, I am writing about anxiety solutions. Last time I gave some causes of anxiety. Before I do, I need to make a confession -- the anxiety treatments that have been employed over the last 60 years have been partially effective at best and dangerous at worst.
Stratagems like flooding, imagery, and journaling require professional supervision and consistency. All of this runs counter to the American penchant for independence and fast everything. Benzodiazepines (Xanax, valium etc.) are effective short term, but there is no improvement in anxiety over the long term. And you get addicted to them over the long-term as well. Did I mention memory problems? These drugs generally make patients addicted, doctor-dependent AND patients are just as anxious as when they started!
In Europe, a form of Cognitive Therapy was started through the research of Dr. Joan Swart, PsyD and popularized by the book DARE by Barry McDonagh. The theory is simple. The dysfunctional reactions that we have from anxiety are due to our fear of anxiety (we fear the fear!). The theory postulates that anxiety is a normal and beneficial reaction to life and not something to avoid, fear or dread.
The first response to anxiety is to be AWARE of automatic thoughts. Things like, “What if I have a panic attack?” or “What if my pounding heart means I am going to have a heart attack?”. The response is, “So what?” “So what if I have a panic attack? I will get through it like I usually do.” Or, “So what if my heart is pounding? It is an incredibly strong muscle and able to handle the strain.”
Second, you must ACCEPT AND ALLOW the anxiety in whatever form it presents. Tell yourself, “I accept and allow this anxious feeling.” What you accept, you can transform.
Third, you RUN TOWARD the anxiety. You tell yourself, “I feel excited by my anxious thoughts and feelings.” Anyone who has ridden a roller coaster is familiar with this frame of mind. You are having thoughts and feelings that CAN BE interpreted as anxiety OR excitement. Choose excitement.
The final step is to ENGAGE. Redirect your thoughts to FOCUSED and GOAL DIRECTED tasks. I have anxious/excited feelings prior to riding a rollercoaster, but once I start the ride, I am focused on watching my son to see what kind of ridiculous face he will make. During the ride I do not have anxious feelings. I am engaged. You could very easily do other things -- work, read, mow lawns -- whatever keeps you engaged and works toward a set goal.
Winston Churchill, the British statesman once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” I like Churchill. He’s a genius and he has a pink, wrinkled face that reminds me of every newborn baby I’ve ever seen. Seriously, look him up.