Updated: Jun 14, 2019
By Dr. Sarah Haas *
Feeling stressed. Feeling overwhelmed. Worrying a lot. Anxiety. Even just hearing these words can feel uncomfortable. And feeling uncomfortable is the WORST.
If you or your child experiences anxiety, you may already know how it can run the show and make you feel like you can't do anything. It can even make you feel like the Anxiety is a part of you. The anxiety can control you in ways that you don't want it to. This is how anxiety is like a bully.
Bullies use fear to get you to do what they want you to do. We become so afraid of what might happen, that we don't question it and give into the bully.
So, what would happen if we didn't do what the bully wanted? What if we knew the bully was all talk and wouldn't actually do what he or she said they would do?
Then we could take some control back from Anxiety.
Anxiety operates in a very similar way. Let's break that down. First, let's start with where Anxiety likes to live.
Anxiety likes to live in spaces of uncertainty.
Uncertainty is pretty much everywhere in our lives. It lives in the never-ending to-do list. It lives in the future. It lives in what we "should" have done differently in the past. It lives in those "what if" thoughts. It lives in the moments just before you're about to do something different or scary. Anxiety has many places in our lives, then, that it can live.
The antidote often is in the specifics.
Ever feel super overwhelmed at looking at your long to-do list, or thinking about just how much you have to accomplish today? What happens when you start to break it down and look at it task-by-task? Most times, that feeling overwhelmed starts to go away. Or have you ever had to do something new, like talk in front of a large group of people, or get on an airplane, or give birth to your first baby? It is often those moments right before you do something that you haven't done before, or don't do often, that the worrying and anxiety is the worst. It's almost as if the anxiety says "You can't do this; you're going to fail" which makes us feel worse, and then when you start doing the thing the Anxiety says you can't do, the anxiety starts to go away because you're proving it wrong.
Second, let's talk about what anxiety feels like.
Anxiety feels uncomfortable. Period.
Feeling uncomfortable can be a very strong motivator for behavior. We do not like to feel uncomfortable, so we quickly take action and do something that makes us feel more comfortable.
Anxiety knows this and uses it to it's advantage. It's almost as if it were to say, "If I make you feel uncomfortable, I will get you to do what I want you to do." So if you think about talking in front of a group and anxiety creeps in and makes you feel uncomfortable, maybe you'll come up with a reason not to give that talk. Anxiety wins. Or maybe if you're thinking of going to the mall and the anxiety creeps in, you'll shop online instead. Anxiety wins. So anxiety knows feeling uncomfortable will make you want to do something different, and it uses this to it's advantage.
So, let's talk about that feeling of discomfort.
All emotions are transient and short lived. Experiencing emotions like happiness, sadness, and surprise are good to experience if they do not stay around for too long and impair your ability to do things like go to school, go for a drive, and hang out with friends. So why not view discomfort in the same way? Why not embrace feeling uncomfortable for short periods of time? If we say to ourselves we cannot feel uncomfortable or we cannot feel anxiety or we are terrified of that feeling, it can make that feeling even worse.
How might your life be different if you were OK with feeling uncomfortable?
With the help of therapy, we can learn to become more comfortable with discomfort.
You are resilient. You are strong. You can take that control back from Anxiety! Even in nature if you stick out the storm, the storm ends and you see a rainbow.
Disclaimer: The Information provided through this website, including the various pages, blog posts, and emails, are designed for informational purposes only and does not constitute a client/therapist relationship. The information is not intended to replace medical advice or mental health treatment. Every individual person's situation is unique. Please seek out individual care if needed.