KENTUCKY (12/8/12) – As stated in my last article about panic attacks, according to MedicineNet, over 60 million people will suffer with anxiety at one point in their life. Over four million people experience generalized anxiety each year. Panic attacks can start as early as 15 years of age.
Most people who know me and/or have been reading my column knows that I was one of the 60 million. I struggled with anxiety daily for 18 years. Within the next several weeks, I want to share with you about my life with anxiety and the road I took to find myself again. I feel it necessary to share my story, especially due to the staggering numbers of people who are suffering with this in silence. My hope is to help others just like myself, people who are drowning in worry daily.
I know that change and trying something new can be very scary. If your anxiety gets worse while reading these articles – it is normal and okay. Just feel the fear and do it anyway. The techniques I am sharing with you in these articles are the same techniques I used to overcome my anxiety. They work – if you work. Remember, what are you really gaining from staying where you are? Picture yourself how you would like to be – the person you can be without the anxiety. Write a description of him or her down and read it regularly. Let that be your motivation for change. Let it motivate you to feel the fear and do it anyway. I believe in you! If I can do it, so can you!
Obsessive thinking - there is no way to have anxiety without dealing with worrisome thoughts that play over and over again in your mind, like a broken record. Like I said earlier, I would go to bed, wake up in the middle of the night and then get up in the morning with the same thoughts dwelling in my mind.
I learned that obsessive thoughts were really my minds way of distracting itself from something I didn’t want to deal with. It was my mind’s way of preoccupying itself. Obsessive thinking is also a way to try to control a situation. We believe if we can think of every possible scenario then maybe we can control the outcome.
The next time you start having these nagging, racing thoughts that play over and over again in your mind, I want you to ask yourself this question:
“What is it that I’m trying to avoid here?”
Then listen for the answer.
I learned the key to gaining control of my thoughts was not to let them spiral out of control. This is what happens when we don’t literally stop the thought the moment it starts. It takes time to get used to this, but it will happen, and I feel it is so worth the time and effort. Practice makes perfect.
The “what if” thought - what if I lose control? What if I can’t do this correctly? What if they don’t like me? Here’s a thought - what if you don’t lose control? What if you do this correctly? I learned to turn the “what if” thought around to its opposite. We always have a choice. We can choose to look at the possible negative outcome or the possible positive outcome of any given situation. It’s just as easy to choose to look for the positive rather than the negative.
Another helpful technique I learned in counteracting “what if” thoughts is to look at what the worst possible outcome is to every situation and then accepting it. In doing this you can even go a step further, look at the best possible outcome, and every time your mind wants to scare itself with the worst possible outcome, look at what you may lose out on with the best possible outcome.*
To give you an example of how this works, there was a lady that I read about in a book that lived in Europe. She decided that she wasn’t happy where she was and wanted to move to Canada. Of course, she started having all these “what if” thoughts – what if I fail? She looked at the worst case scenario – she’d move to Canada and couldn’t make ends meet. Well, if this happened she could always move back home. Then she flipped it and looked at the best case scenario – she’d move to Canada, get a job she loved, make new friends, start a new life and create a family for herself there. She chose to concentrate on the best case scenario (besides it was far more appealing than the worst case scenario). She eventually moved to Canada and never regretted it! Again we always have a choice, why not choose to look for the silver lining? What can we really lose?
When I suffered with anxiety, my “what if” thoughts were very crippling. Now looking back, I realize that those “what if” thoughts rarely, if ever, happened. I also realize that they kept me from enjoying some rare opportunities that were given me. I regret this deeply. I believe that the things in life we regret are not the things we tried and didn’t turn out the way we had hoped – but the things we never tried at all. We regret things we never tried because of fear – anxiety and worry are fear based. The time has come to stop hiding from life experiences and start living them.
My next article will be about a technique I learned that was vital to my recovery.
If you are interested in learning more about the program that helped my anxiety go to: https://store.midwestcenter.com/takeyourlifeback
DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to support your overall well-being. This article is not meant to replace professional healthcare. I (Gayla Miller) am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, therapist, social worker or any other trained health professional. When you try the techniques outlined in these articles, you understand all of the above and you are participating by your own free will.
*This works if what you are dealing with isn’t a very big catastrophic situation.
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