How to Befriend Your Anxiety in 4 Easy Steps
When we think about famous pairings, “anxiety” and “friend” are nowhere near Beyonce & Jay-Z status. In fact, these words would rarely be considered a pair at all.
Anxiety typically goes hand in hand with fear. When fear is present, we tend to do one of the following things: get mad, run away, or feel stuck. Anxiety lives in the body, making us feel a racing heartbeat, queasy stomach, & tense muscles.
How do we typically cope with these anxious symptoms? We tend to distract (i.e. Netflix), numb (i.e. wine), or react (i.e. lashing out at loved ones). These coping strategies may offer us some relief in the short term; however, our anxiety is likely to strengthen as a result.
When we’re in an anxious state, we don’t feel a sense of control. How do we get that control back?
Many clients do not believe me when I tell them that befriending their anxiety will give them the control they’re seeking. Trust me, it is an incredibly effective method for reducing feelings of overwhelm and fear.
Are you ready to befriend your anxiety? Here are 4 easy steps to get there:
Give your anxiety a name
I know, it might feel strange at first, but by naming your anxiety, you externalize it from your sense of self. This allows you to examine and engage with your anxiety from a more objective point of view.
Bonus tip: Try the following journal prompt: write a letter from the perspective of your anxiety to yourself.
Ask, “How is my anxiety serving me?”
Your anxiety is there for a reason. As humans, anxiety serves an evolutionary purpose to avoid danger and seek safety. Most often, your anxiety originated in childhood as a means to protect yourself and get your needs met. If you’re a perfectionist or people pleaser, your anxiety serves as a motivator for you to take action and minimize conflict, which increases feelings of safety and security.
Ask, “What does my anxiety need?”
Most often, our anxiety is a symptom that we are seeking validation, connection, control, and security. When we connect to these underlying needs our anxiety is communicating to us, we are more likely to experience self-compassion. In operating from a place of empathy instead of fear, we can learn to rewire our brain to flag anxiety as information, rather than a threat.
I always tell my clients that our goal is to not eliminate anxiety altogether; rather, our goal is to more compassionately coexist with our anxiety’s presence. Think of your anxiety like a younger version of yourself that simply needs a hug and someone to tell them, “I know you’re scared, but you’ll be okay. I’m here for you.”
When you implement these four strategies, you will have a new understanding and relationship with your anxiety. By accessing compassion and acceptance, you can reframe your experience & find comfort in your anxiety. Remember, anxiety gives us important information about what we need!