One of my favourite episodes of ‘The Life Coach School’ podcast by Brooke Castillo is “14. How to Overcome Anxiety”. Brooke discusses the 4 ways people typically deal with anxiety and offers tools, strategies, and advice for overcoming it in a healthy way. Once we gain self-awareness of how we normally react to anxiety we can learn how to accept it and allow it to pass rather than trying to change, fix, or push it away.
I wanted to share the key takeaways from this episode because it completely changed my relationship with anxiety. Whenever I find myself slipping back into old response patterns I can recognize it and choose to process it in a healthier way.
1. Avoid / Ignore it
We pretend the anxiety is not there and go about our day as if we aren’t experiencing it. We tell ourselves it’s not there, push it down, and do something else instead in order to distract ourselves away from the anxiety (e.g. cleaning, eating, working, drinking, etc.).
I think this is a really common response to anxiety. I know if I’m alone and not doing anything and start feeling anxious I will throw myself into an activity to avoid feeling uncomfortable.
Ignoring and avoiding the feeling does not make it go away. In my experience if I push anxiety down it will always linger or come up again later.
2. RESIST IT
Resisting anxiety happens when we start fighting against it, and get frustrated or angry with ourselves for experiencing it.
We get all tense because we don’t want to feel the way we are feeling but then we just go to battle with ourselves and give the anxiety all this energy which just intensifies it.
3. REACT TO IT
Another common reaction to feeling anxiety is to get all worked up and “go down the rabbit hole” of negativity, worry, and obsession.
We take it out on other people or ourselves, which only fuels the anxiety.
4. ACCEPT IT
Accepting the anxiety is the only way to diffuse it. When you allow yourself to feel anxiety it gives you a feeling of authority and a sense of control.
This requires work because you have to actively witness and observe it. Brooke says that by observing our own anxiety it gives us a moment of perspective. We can explore why we are feeling this way and what thoughts caused it. Understanding why we feel the way we do takes a lot of the power away from the anxiety. When you allow it, and let it be, you can experience it for what it is and usually the anxiety isn’t even that bad (usually just a harmless buzzing vibration in the body). Its when we react, avoid, or resist it that makes anxiety intense.
What response pattern is most common for you when dealing with anxiety?
Next time you find yourself resisting, reacting, or avoiding uncomfortable emotions how can you try to accept it instead?