Separate Anxiety from Your Sense of Identity

Separate Anxiety from Your Sense of Identity

I wonder if you have ever said these to yourself? –  “I am an anxious person”, or “I’m always anxious.”

If that’s you, then remember that anxiety is something you do, it’s not something you are. It’s a feeling. It’s not part of your identity.

Here are some ideas to change this and help relieve anxiety quickly in the process.

Add the phrase “except when you’re not.” For example “I’m always anxious, except when you are not“. If you think about it, I’m sure there are many times when you are not anxious. We just never think about those times.  Adding the phrase “except when you’re not”, reminds your brain that anxiety is something you do, NOT something you are.  Thank Bill O’Hanlon for this one.

Think about all the other things that you are besides an anxious person.  Perhaps you’re a parent, husband, wife, doctor, dentist, lawyer, electrician, chef, dog lover or cat lover.  See if you can list 20 other things are you also are.  If being an anxious person is only 5% of who you are, then that really puts it into perspective.

Think of anxiety as a feeling, rather than part of who you are.  Rather than say, “I am anxious,” say “I feel anxious,” or “I am feeling anxious.”

Overthinking

It’s pretty hard to be anxious if you don’t overthink things. They go hand in hand.

Overthinking doesn’t need to be negative thinking. It can be planning, strategizing or weighing up options. However, if you keep thinking of the same things over and over again, you’re going to feel anxious.

How do you know when you’re thinking but NOT overthinking?   A useful amount of thinking will normally lead you to a decision or some kind of action to solve the problem. An excessive amount of thinking will usually keep you stuck in the problem.

If you find that you’re thinking the same things over and over again and not taking any action or getting a solution, that’s a clue that you’re probably overthinking something.

Here are some tips to help you relieve anxiety quickly by reducing or stopping overthinking.

Notice “what if” questions and answer them.

People that overthink things, often come up with “what if” questions, but they don’t answer them!

For example, if you were feeling anxious about a presentation you might have a thought like “What if I mess up my words in my presentation today”

Here are some possible answers:

  • Some people could laugh
  • Other people might help, support and encourage you
  • Other people may empathize with you.
  • Some people will be relieved that it’s you talking and not them!
  • Other people will not even notice that you messed up your words.

So by answering the “what if” questions, you start to focus on solutions or contingencies. For example, If somebody does laugh, you can decide how you would deal with them laughing. You’ll be prepared for it and have a way to deal with it.

Allocate specific “worry-time”

Allocate a specific time to think or worry about situations.  When this time is up, imagine putting those worries into little boxes and locking them. You could have separate boxes for work worries, money worries, relationship worries, health worries etc.

When it’s not “worry-time” and an anxious thought comes into your mind, say, “Not right now.” The anxious thoughts will come up often to start with, so be persistent with saying “Not right now” It will take a while to train your brain to respond to this.

If you find that worries keep you awake at night, then this is a great exercise to do just before going to sleep. You can do this by visualizing a very calming and relaxed room with little boxes on the wall.  Then imagine putting your work worries into a box and locking it, then repeating the process with money worries, relationship worries etc.

When all your anxious thoughts are safely in the correct boxes, imagine putting the keys to the boxes somewhere safe.   Somewhere where there is no chance of anything coming out of those boxes until the following morning. Maybe put the keys under your pillow, if that works well for you.  I have found this to be one of the best ways to relieve anxiety quickly.

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