Anxiety: if we didn’t have it then we would be dead. As human beings it is critical for us to have some anxiety or we wouldn’t know how to protect ourselves and we would all walk out into the street and probably get hit by cars. However, anxiety has a way of creeping into our lives and can become a monster so big that we need to take medicine to not feel it’s ever present grip on our lives. I would love to give you some tools and tips to change your life and deal with your anxiety.
In graduate school, one of my favorite theories that I learned was ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I like ACT because It seemed to approach anxiety and mental health with a brave and real concept. The first step in ACT is Acceptance, Radical Acceptance to be exact. Now you might be thinking what I thought when I heard this for the first time. I thought that acceptance was counterintuitive to what we all should do with the problems or the anxiety in our lives. I thought that acceptance was just another word for defeat. We need to fight the anxiety right!? Well turns out that radical acceptance is just that, RADICAL. It takes bravery and strength but it also takes surrender. When you are ready to admit that what you are currently doing to quiet your anxious thoughts isn’t working, than you might be ready to try acceptance.
How do I accept my anxiety or stress you might ask, good question. You first acknowledge what you are experiencing and how it is affecting you and you do so without judgment of yourself or others. You label it by saying for example, “I’m really anxious about all these projects I have to do because I feel like I might fail”, “I feel adrenaline coursing throughout my body, yep that’s anxiety”. Labeling without judgement is difficult at first but the more you can acknowledge what you are feeling without telling yourself that it’s the end of your life because of it, the more you will be able to move beyond it and towards meeting your life goals. Take some time to write down a list of your life goals and values. An example could be, “I value having a family and someday I want to design and build a house for my family”, that would be a value and a life goal. So get going making that list, it’ll be worth it!
If you didn’t have the threat of anxiety, what are some things you would do or accomplish?
Above is a picture from one of my favorite runs in Santa Cruz, CA. I do a lot of life thinking and accepting of my anxieties while running. What has helped you in the past?