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February 19, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Mental Health

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Help with Anxiety

Question:

I first experienced anxiety after I had my first child, around 5 years ago. It was rough, because it scared me and I had never experienced this before. However, I'm older now and I know that these feelings I've been having are not real, and that they are only effects of my anxiety. The problem is, I can't seem to shake these irritating thoughts and I'm tired of it. I sometimes feel like I'm going to lose my mind - I know that this is the anxiety that makes me feel like this.

My anxiety hits me once a year for maybe 2 or 3 months, but they are the worst months ever. I want to know how I can make these feelings go away, given that I know these feeling are not real and that I'm not going to lose my mind. I just want to move on from this and enjoy my life. Thank you!

Jess, 24-year-old woman

Answer:

Dear Jess,

It's wretched, isn't it, when you feel as if you are not in control of yourself? If a child came to me with a similar problem, I'd invent the Scaredy Monster who moved into her mind, and whispers stuff to her to make her feel scared. Then it's a matter of learning to dismiss the Scaredy Monster thoughts. So, you can think along an adult version of the same: distinguish anxiety thoughts from Jess thoughts, and simply dismiss them.

That is, if there are thoughts associated with the anxiety.

However, it is possible that you have certain sensations in your body that are similar to the feelings you have when you are anxious, and you have called it anxiety, even though you are not actually anxious about anything. In that case, language is magic. "I have a knot in my stomach and I am breathing fast and high in my chest." That is, focus on the bodily sensations. This is not anxiety, just something uncomfortable you are doing with your body.

So, you can deliberately do some relaxation, meditation or the like. You can practice breathing deeply and slowly - do whatever it takes to ease those physical sensations.

The other thing is, these feelings persist because you are trying to make them go away. When you say to yourself, "I don't want to feel this," you are giving the feeling energy. That makes it stay.

Suppose you had an itch on your back, and you were not allowed to scratch it. When you use willpower to stop yourself from scratching, you are giving the itch energy, and it will get worse and worse until it becomes irresistible. Or if I ask you to NOT think of the word "hippopotamus," what happens? That's exactly what you'll think of.

So, the secret is to stop fighting the feelings you have interpreted as anxiety. They are only sensations in your body, no worse than, say, a hunger pang if you missed a meal. No great tragedy.

"OK, I've got that knot in my stomach again, so what. It's allowed to be there, I don't care."

This may actually make it go away. But even if it doesn't, it is not distressing you, so it can be there - so what.

Every problem has two parts: the problem and our reaction to it. All the ideas I've outlined change your reaction to it. That throws away at least half of your distress - maybe all of it.

Hope this helps,

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

For more information visit the site or contact information page on QueenDom.

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