Recently, I was with my niece Olivia and her three-year-old son Hayden. Olivia is teaching Hayden to put his hand on his mom’s arm if she is talking to another grown up. This lets Olivia know he needs something, and it also teaches Hayden a polite way to interrupt. I was impressed by her teaching.
But anxiety isn’t polite. It is rude! Anxiety wants to speak up and interrupt whenever it wants. It barges into our thoughts and our lives, wreaking havoc on our emotions, and sometimes paralyzing us. So we have to teach it NOT to interrupt.
One of the most important parts of interrupting anxiety is knowing that anxiety isnot you. You don’t have to listen to it. But learning how not to listen to it can be a challenge.
Let’s start by identifyingwhere tointerrupt -
Here is a common experience:
You have trouble getting to sleep one night, so you oversleep the next morning, making you late to work. This is when anxiety shows up and starts interrupting your day.
Anxiety: “You can’t go to work today because you woke up late. People will think you are lazy. You’d better call in sick. You are probably going to lose your job. No one likes you there anyways. They probably talk about you all the time.”
This is classic anxiety, imagining the worst and writing stories in your head.
So where do we interrupt it?
We interrupt anxietythe first time we notice it is lying to us.
IDENTIFY THE LIE
“You can’t go to work today.” Immediately interrupt this thought with, “Is this true?” No! It is not true. It mayfeel true, but feelings don’t make it true.
If you go into work late what will likely happen? Will your boss ask what happened? Reprimand you? Give you a warning? Maybe. Probably.
STAY IN REALITY
Can you tolerate that conversation? What would you need in order to tolerate it?
Sometimes our anxiety is just trying to keep us from uncomfortable feelings. It doesn’t feel good to be reprimanded, but youcan tolerate it today. So take a deep breath and prepare for it.
When we interrupt anxiety with our curiosity, it takes us down the road ofrealityinstead of down the road ofimagined outcomes that often paralyze us.
I hope these tools are helpful as you flip the tables and become the boss of your anxiety.
I have worked with a number of clients struggling with anxiety whose particular “ go-to” anxiety is catastrophic thinking...
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