Those living with anxiety have considerable problems limiting their worry, and after establishing a pattern of worry, it can be difficult to get that worry impulse under control. If you’re using unhelpful control strategies try to suppress or control worry, it can make your worry seem even more menacing and uncontrollable. Understanding unhelpful control strategies is the first step in moving toward healthier ones.
Unhelpful Control Strategies:
1. Telling yourself not to worry or attempting to suppress the anxiety
2. Telling yourself everything will be okay without actively exploring the threat
3. Seeking reassurance from others without accepting their influence
4. “Checking,” or engaging in some repetitive activity to relieve doubt
5. Punishment, or criticizing yourself for worrying
6. Trying to associate with worry or make it normal. It isn’t (even if you live in the Midwest).
Helpful Control Strategies:
1. Intentionally allowing yourself to worry for a certain period of time. Try doing this for 2 – 20 minutes, stop, ask yourself… 1) do I have a better understanding of my problem? 2) do I feel less anxious?
2. If the answer to these questions is “no” – Practice distraction, such as distracting yourself with an activity or replacing worry with more positive thoughts. Even if you have to do 100 jumping jacks or crank up the volume on the radio. Most things are more productive than anxious-thinking, rumination and worry.
3. Re-evaluate the threat. What’s so scary? Try to name it. (We’ll share more about this a future post.)
4. Engaging in active problem solving, such as developing an action plan to deal with the worry concern. Figure out how you can take action to decrease the likelihood of a negative outcome. If you can’t take action, chances are the situation is out of your control. Mentally, think of two baskets. In one basket, place things about the situation that are within your control. In the other, aspects you can’t control. Can you tell the difference? Focus on the “things I can control” basket.
5. Practice body relaxation, meditation if you enjoy slowing yourself down. If you enjoy speeding yourself up, exercise or singing a song.6. Embrace a “bring it on” relationship with anxiety. The goal is to embrace insecurity not wait for the world to be safe so you can stop worrying. ‘Cause, well, you know how that works. An anxious mind finds something to be anxious about.