Search

Change #4 "I must relax right now." to "It's OK to be anxious here."

Continuing our theme, once you choose to face your symptoms, then what do you do? You will see a lot of relaxation skills in this self-help guide. These are important skills. But equal to them is your willingness to stay anxious. (You are simply not going to escape this paradox: calm down, and let yourself stay anxious.) When anxiety hits, your instincts tell you to get rid of it. It's the American way: "Don't just stand there, do something!" The more powerful intervention is, "Don't just do something, stand there."

Although you will train yourself to respond to anxiety using coping skills that include calming your breath and quieting your thoughts, do not make relaxation a demand. When you require yourself to relax, you add another demand to an already stressful situation. That will only add to your stress.

Instead, take the more permissive attitude of, "It's OK that I'm anxious right now." Accepting your anxiety in the moment when it occurs will reduce the anxiety. It takes away the internal demand and helps you build your tolerance.

Your accepting inner voice may go something like this: "It is really no surprise I am anxious right now. This is my first flight since I got scared during the trip to Orlando. I don't like to feel trapped and out of control. This is harder than driving because I can pull off the highway when I need to. I can't get off this plane whenever I want. So I'm going to practice all the skills I've brought on board with me. If I'm still anxious, that's OK. I can handle those feelings, and as I do, I won't be so worried on the next flight."

So, shop in that mall, give that speech, go to that dinner, or climb that ladder . . . and use all your many skills to help you stay cooled out. Just add to those skills the important attitude of "It's OK to be anxious here."