Sink or Swim


What kind of anxiety?

I have never met anyone who didn’t suffer from anxiety at some stage in their life, or who couldn’t relate to the concept from recent experience. It is a human condition and often quite a debilitating one, where the sufferer can only seem to focus on the worse case scenario to the point of paralysis to act upon it.

When they are in this state of mind they are hard to help. Often others will try to persuade them that the worst won’t happen or be as bad as they imagine. This is an act of kindness, but seldom releases their state; they bounce back into it as they flex their imagination to the justification for the anxiety. And yet the state is quite temporary, it automatically ends once the event has happened.

Susan Jeffers book – Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, is all about this and as Brian Tracey stated…”do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain”.

Here are the ways which I have found of genuinely getting someone beyond anxiety and into action, to reduce the worst case scenario which might inevitably be the outcome of being fixated on failure, in fact, focusing on what they DON’T want!

Reframe it – most would come to agree, that we have conscious mind – its function is to process the meaning of things and to figure out what we will do in response to situations – a useful mind we can’t function without. But we also have an unconscious or sub- conscious mind which runs most other things such as our heart pumping, lungs breathing, eyes blinking and even jumping at a loud noise – this mind is there to serve us and protect us and it is this mind we need to thank when we are anxious. Because, when we reframe it, it is reminding us that we are focussing on what we don’t want – to fail in some way – so it is protecting us….but also serving us with a conscious reminder; if we listen.

Focus on what you do want – and stop wasting energy on what you don’t. Reframe the purpose of the anxiety. Help yourself or them by suggesting that anxiety is there to remind us that we are focussing on what we don’t want, this will enable us to recognise we have a choice…and when we focus on what we want ZAP! the anxiety disappears, doesn’t it?

Future Pace – on the basis that anxiety ceases to exist once the moment has passed, I often ask people to imagine a time, just after the event they are imagining will happen (the feared event). Once they imagine this moment has passed, I ask them “where is the anxiety?” – and it has always passed too, it’s gone, like smoke.
This usually gets a reaction of surprise that it was too easy – ha ha, it is! I often follow it up with a question – “now how did you achieve what you wanted?” This gets then to recount their successful steps to getting what they want – a plan is now formed and action can now be taken.

Anxiety, what sort of anxiety? This question uses some sleight of mouth (like slight of hand, but different as you’ll hear). When the person identifies they are anxious just ask them what kind of ‘anxious’ it is, and then perhaps suggest some alternatives, such as curious anxiety, excited anxiety, colourful anxiety, magnificent etc. Using positive words and linking will create a conflict of ideas (confusion leads to clarity) and once again recognition that they have choice and control over their current state….curious, but effective.

I think we all get anxious at certain times and rather than feeling this is a negative state, we can recognise this can serve us well, to protect us and remind us to focus on swimming with the tide, not sinking into despair.