Carol the Coach: Managing Anxiety

As a mental health therapist and life coach, I encourage people to manage their emotions, and in today’s fast-paced world, the emotion that seems most out of control in many people’s lives is anxiety. Emotions occur naturally, but oftentimes need to be managed. Many people spend days, worrying about situations that have not even occurred. They believe that if they prepare for the situation, they will be more likely to handle it when it occurs. This creates anticipatory anxiety and it robs you from enjoying the moment.

“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.”

Much of the mindfulness work I do with clients involves them imagining that they can move the anxiety away with their hand. I ask them to spend one to three minutes visualizing how they may see a subject, and then put that fear in a compartment, in a box if you will, leaving it closed until the actual event occurs. Compartmentalizing feelings, especially anxiety, is a very helpful tool, because it teaches the client that although the emotion needs to be felt and dealt with, it also can be managed and kept in perspective. A simple way to change a feeling is to link it to a positive thought. The good news is that you cannot have two feelings at one time, so if you feel anxiety, you can change that feeling to a feeling of confidence if it accompanies a confident thought.

Here are some examples of how you can slow down, reduce, or alter your feelings by attaching a strengthening thought:

You have a specific deadline at work to complete a project. You recognize the project is not as comprehensive as you would have liked it to be. You feel anxiety about the project. You tell yourself that the next time you have a project, you will allot three more days to work the process so that you feel more confident about it. You also tell yourself that you have an innate ability to handle situations spontaneously, and your staff will really appreciate the work that you have done on it.

Your husband’s company is being downsized. He comes home on a daily basis complaining that he fears he will lose his job. You begin to worry insurmountably about your future. As a result, you nag and coerce him to look for other positions in the community. You are experiencing anticipatory anxiety. Imagine that you take that worry out of your mind by writing down your greatest fears. You put that paper into a special jewelry box and you close the box. You tell yourself that this is your husband’s issue and that he is totally competent and capable of providing for your family and that you will support him in any way possible. You share your feelings with your husband. You tell him that you will be doing three things on a daily basis to manage your anxieties about his work. You remind yourself of the quote, you will say a little prayer every day reminding yourself that you are not alone in this endeavor, and you will read an affirmation that will help him to know that you absolutely believe that he can land on his feet in all situations.

This, coupled with the belief that there is much gratitude in your attitude, will allow you to look for things that are working well in your life, and offset normal and natural anxiety. 

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and you get to decide how you manage it!