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New Year, New Perspective on Anxiety

Dr. Melanie Badali

December 15, 2020

RESILIENCY

A new year is upon us once again and people are talking about New Year’s resolutions.  Some people get excited about the beauty of a new beginning, while others can’t be bothered because they’ve been burned in the past. Either way, a new year is a good time for a fresh perspective. Here, Dr. Melanie will discuss gaining a new perspective on anxiety this year.

The definition of a resolution is, “A firm decision to do or not to do something.” This year, I’ve decided to focus on opportunities and face my fears.

It seems obvious that given the choice between focusing on the opportunities versus focusing on the threats in life, most people will choose to focus on the opportunities. Unfortunately, it’s harder to do than it may sound. When we feel anxious, our thoughts may automatically shift to focus on potential threats. When we pay attention to potential threats, we may feel more anxious. Do you see how we can get stuck in a spiral of anxiety?

New Perspective on Anxiety: How Do We Manage the Spiral of Anxiety?

The trick is in the do.

When our anxious thoughts and emotions dictate our actions, managing our anxiety can become harder. As uncomfortable as it may seem, sometimes we have to act the opposite of how we feel. Paradoxically, the things we may do to decrease our anxiety in the short term can fuel our anxiety, making it worse for us in the long run (for example, avoiding a difficult conversation in the short-term will likely only increase anxiety in the long-term). By facing our fears and doing what scares us, we can learn that the fear is unfounded or that we are able to cope with the feared outcome. How do we gain this new perspective on anxiety and make a change in our lives?

The key is to figure out if we’re doing or avoiding something out of preference (we don’t actually like it), or if we’re avoiding it because we feel anxious.

Ask yourself the following question:

If I knew for sure (insert fear here) _________________________, was not going to happen, what would I do?

For example:

  • If I knew I was not going to be rejected, would I go on a date?
  • If I knew I was going to get an offer, would I apply for the job?
  • If I knew I couldn’t fail/be rejected/get sick/look foolish, what would I do?

Are you missing out on opportunities?

To help you identify the situations that you typically avoid, here’s an exercise from the Anxiety Canada website. Try to come up with as many answers as possible to the following questions:

If you woke up tomorrow morning and all your anxiety had magically disappeared;

  • What would you do?
  • How would you act?
  • How would someone close to you know you weren’t anxious?

Finish the following sentences:

  • My anxiety stops me from__________________________________
  • When I am not anxious, I will be able to_______________________

Anxiety can feel very uncomfortable, so it’s not unusual to want that feeling to stop. Remember anxiety is normal, it isn’t dangerous, it can actually be helpful, and it won’t last forever. Knowing this can help you act bravely. Brave is a new perspective on anxiety. Dr. Melanie has given some extra tips on how to enter the new year bravely, read that blog post here.

PERSPECTIVE ON ANXIETY: 5 FACTS

  1. Anxiety is normal. Everyone experiences anxiety at times. For example, it is normal to feel anxious when on a rollercoaster, or before a job interview.
  2. Anxiety is adaptive. It’s a system in our body that helps us to deal with real danger (for example, anxiety allows us to jump out of the way of a speeding car) or to perform at our best (for example, it motivates us to prepare for a big presentation). When you experience anxiety, your body’s “fight-flight-freeze” response (also called the “adrenaline response”) is triggered. This response prepares your body to defend itself.
  3. Anxiety is not dangerous. Although anxiety may feel uncomfortable, it’s not dangerous or harmful to you. Remember, all the sensations you feel when you are anxious are there to protect you from danger, not hurt you.
  4. Anxiety does not last forever. When you are anxious, you may feel like the anxiety is going to last forever. But anxiety is temporary and will eventually decrease.
  5. Anxiety is mostly anonymous. Most people (except those close to you) cannot tell when you are anxious.

“Anxiety is a problem when your body reacts as if there is danger when there is no real danger. It’s like having an overly sensitive smoke alarm system in your body!”

 

Adapted from Kristin Bower’s Original Article on MyWorkplaceHealth.com

Kristin Bower is a Leadership and Workplace Consultant with MyWorkplaceHealth and an award-winning Diversity and Inclusion expert. With over 20-years of experience, she is an outspoken advocate for a deeper awareness of mental health issues and is committed to helping organizations foster psychologically safe and healthy workplaces.

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