The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that 3.1% of the U.S. population suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and it affects twice as many women as men. Add to this number those who suffer from panic disorders, social anxieties, OCD, and PTSD, and the number grows. If you suffer from anxiety, you are not alone.A common trait in those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the tendency to worry excessively or what I call “over-worry” or obsess. This trait can put you in a state of tension and stress that you may or may not be aware of. When I ask my clients about their day, many say that they had not spent much time feeling anxious. But when I begin to ask them what was going through their minds as they drove home from the grocery store, the worry list seems endless. No wonder they come home feeling exhausted, irritable, or sick to their stomachs. They have spent hours worrying and they didn’t even know it.
Anxiety affects people in many different ways. You can be incredibly aware of its controlling force when you are in the throes of a panic affect, or you can be sadly unaware it has you wrapped in its coils as you obsessively think and worry over the future. In both scenarios, you can find yourself helpless to stop the effects of this condition and later find yourself suffering from exhaustion, irritability, fear, and isolation. These can be compounded by physical effects such as headaches, stomach aches, hives, and other symptoms.
Yet, there is so much hope for you! In my years of treating women with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I have found the following activity to be helpful. This particular tool and others I employ in the course of therapy are meant to empower you to fight back against anxiety and regain control and peace in your life.
This tool is called Relax and Let Go:
Relax and Let Go
1. Prepare Your Mindset
Start by making a list of all the things you are currently worrying about. Get it all out there. This is not time to wonder if you should be worrying. Only to get it down on paper. Approach this as you would a scientist making observations. You are trying to find all the things you are currently worrying about. Try not to judge your worries, even if they seem silly.
2. Make the List
Think of a situation that is causing you anxiety. Make a list of all of the worries associated with the situation. They may be big or small, feel weighty or insignificant. Note them down. Don’t be intimidated or surprised by the length of your list, be it short or long. Don’t try to organize or find which worry is the priority. Just list them out.
3. Practice Letting Go
Now comes the fun part. Start by closing your eyes and taking a few calming deep breaths.
As you sense your body is beginning to relax, glance down at your list and name the first worry in line. If the situation is a conflict at work, a worry might sound like this, “I’m worried everyone will talk about me if I say what I’m thinking.”Now, close your eyes again, take a deep breath and as you breath out imagine yourself releasing the worry. You might picture your worry floating away like a storm cloud dissipates after rain, or dandelion petals floating away in the breeze.
4. Problem Solve
Now that you have let your worries know you are aware of them and you are choosing to approach them calmly, you can begin to problem solve. Sit down, and with yourself or a trusted friend, hopefully a non-worrier, begin to look at some practical solutions for your worries.
From the example above, you might determine that there is one person in particular you are worried about what he or she is thinking of you, and you might plan to have a conversation with that person about the conflict and scope out his or her perspective on your thoughts. Or you might determine exactly the thing you are worried people are saying and decide in the long run you don’t mind if someone thinks that way about you.
This practice is not meant to be a magic cure to make your worries go away. Your worries will not disappear by just imagining them to do so. But this releases the unseen hold they’ve been having on your mind as you neglect to acknowledge them or consciously recognize what they are.
We get into a habit of trying to minimize the things we worry about, thinking that ignoring them means they don’t exist. When we name them and mentally release them, we are really saying to the worry, I know you’re there, and I know there is a solution for you. I’m not going to hide from you anymore.
Enjoy relaxing and letting go.
“Worried,” courtesy of RyanMcGuire, pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Break in the Clouds,” courtesy of SaraOlsen, pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Stressed,” courtesy of Macdongtran, pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Float Away,” courtesy of nikolapeskova, pixabay.com, CC0 License
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