KENTUCKY (1/20/13) - Like stated in my last anxiety series article, 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!
When our expectations are too high, we set ourselves up for disappointment. When I suffered from anxiety, my expectations were very high! I expected life to be fair to me always. I expected to be the perfect wife, mother, employee, and friend. I expected only good things to happen to me and my loved ones. Because of this belief system, I placed tremendous stress on myself. There was no way all this could possible happen all the time. Does any of this sound familiar? When someone has high expectations you place such a heavy burden on yourself. You rush around making yourself sick because you have to have a perfect dinner date. You push yourself to the limit when you are tired or ill because you have to be that perfect spouse or friend. You stress out and get so angry with life when things don’t go the way you plan because life is “supposed” to be perfect all the time.
All these expectations keep your body and mind in that stress response we discussed earlier. I knew that my expectations were unrealistic and they contributed greatly to my stress and worry; but knowing something and knowing how to do something about this bad habit are two different things. I want to teach you an exercise that I did to unveil my outrageous expectations. This helped me learn how to overcome them. You may need a good sized notebook for this one! This exercise is somewhat similar to the counteracting negative thoughts that I shared with you previously in this book.
When I learned that my expectations were causing a lot of my anxiety and worry, I grabbed a notebook and wrote down my expectations one by one. I then, underneath each one, wrote the question, “Can this happen all the time?” Is this something I have 100% control over at every second of every day?” If the answer was no (and it was 99% of the time) I’d then ask myself, “What belief system can I implement that is more realistic?” I’d then write a replacement statement that was more reachable. I then asked myself, “Which option seems more reasonable, the first one or the second one?” Usually the second was more reasonable. Then I’d ask myself, “Can I accept this?” If so, when will you accept it?
Here is an example of how this works, taken from my own expectation journal.
Expectation: I expect life to be fair and kind to me.
1. Is it possible for life always to be fair and kind to me? No
2. Why not? Because there are so many factors that I’d have to control in order for life always to be fair to me; like my lifespan, my health, my loved ones lifespans and health, the weather, and people’s free will. I would have to play God, which is impossible. I am only human.
3. What replacement belief can I implement? Accept the fact that life can’t be fair and kind all the time. There are too many factors out of my control. I can also understand that since life has not always been fair for every living being that ever graced the earth, then how I can expect life to be fair to me?
4. Is the second option more reasonable and realistic? Yes.
5. Was the first option? No.
6. Can I accept this? Yes.
7. When will I accept it? Today.
See how this works? Once I finished this process I had seventeen full pages of unrealistic expectations! Seventeen!
I have learned that once my expectations were lowered and I took one day at a time and only that, my life goes much more smoothly and my anxiety levels have dropped significantly.
I encourage you to start an expectation journal/notebook and start this process with each of your expectations. It was such a freeing experience for me and I hope it is for you as well.
I want to share a quote with you. If you’d like, place this quote someplace where you will read it at least 2-3 times daily (on your mirror, pill bottle, car, etc.)
“Life is under no obligation to give us what we want.”
My next article will be about stopping negative thoughts.
Check out my latest blog “The True Self”
If you are interested in learning more about the program that helped my anxiety go to:
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.
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