A 6-Step Model for Anxiety Management Based on Mindfulness

What-is-Anxiety-Disorder

1. Label worry thoughts.

This step is about identifying “when the phenomenon of worry is happening.” Most worriers have worries around several similar themes, such as health, their job, relationships and finances. Because people see their worries as facts, it can be hard to distinguish a normal thought from a worry thought. Worry thoughts are those that turn ideas about events into psuedofacts (ideas that feel like truths but are not) and typically follow patterns such as “what if scenarios” –future catastrophes we think will happen–and ruminations–replaying what has already happened. Labeling your worry thoughts makes them feel less factual, lets you know when to apply the rest of the model, and helps you start separating yourself from these thoughts.

2. Let go of control.

When you have a thought you don’t like, your body responds by struggling physically to control it and escape from it, which intensifies the thought. Trying to overpower worry only ignites anxiety and worry thoughts, so you have to relax into it. This step encourages worriers to slow down the fight-or-flight response and relax the body by using “traditional stress management” techniques, such as breathing deeply, relaxing your hands and all your muscles, exercise (walk, run, etc.), and drinking lots of water.
Practice a mantra like “It is okay to worry, I accept myself as I am, it is safe to be me.”

3. Accept and observe thoughts/ feelings.

The goal is to look at your worry thought as separate from yourself. You remind yourself that your thoughts are not reality. They’re not actual events. Separating thoughts from reality is called “cognitive defusion”. Try this exercise: Imagine worry as a mind gnome, running around in your head. give it a name. When you identify worry gnome’s thoughts, say oh that is just so-in-so making a mess in my mind. I think he will get tired eventually, maybe i will go for a run in the meantime.” You aren’t trying to rid yourself of these thoughts but you’re trying to distance yourself from them.

4. Be mindful of the present moment.

Mindfulness means “getting out of your head” and “being aware of your immediate surroundings,” using all your senses. You do this in a nonjudgmental and compassionate away. Try this exercise: Pick a color, like red, and for the next two minutes, notice everything that’s the color red. Pay attention to the hues, the textures, the similarities of the objects, and the differences. This is to heighten other processes and engage yourself more fully in the present moment, not what happened before this moment and not what might come next.

5. Proceed in rationally chosen direction.

Oftentimes, we find ourselves placating our anxiety, letting our anxiety drive many of our choices. Instead, the key is to process anxiety so you can get back to making conscious choices based on your values. Values propel people forward, and give us a rationale or purpose for proceeding, even while anxiety is present. Try this metaphor on: Consider that “The journey in the boat is your life,” and you’ve got two instruments: a compass and a barometer. When you focus on anxiety, it’s like you’re steering the boat with a barometer, which provides you with the weather, not the direction. Using a barometer means you avoid any potential bad weather and you sail where the waters are calm. But using it to steer the ship also gives you no sense of direction. The compass, however, represents your values. When you use the compass, you know where you’re going, “even if the water is rough or the weather is dicey” (or you’re experiencing anxiety or difficult emotions).

6. Make an attitude adjustment.

Your attitude about coping with worry and anxiety is also important: many people with acute anxiety are serious and upset and think they have to get a handle on their anxiety immediately. this makes it hard to go around such a driving need, so just approach the worry gnome “playfully and with a light manner,” like an errant child who does not know any better.

Sources:

Origionally pinned by MARGARITA TARTAKOVSKY, M.S.

Based on the work of Chad LeJeune, Ph.D, in his book, The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. Quotes from this source.

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