For those of us who deal with Anxiety on a daily basis, it can be important to remember that our Amygdala (you know, that part of your brain that monitors the environment for danger and sends out the alert) is like a Smoke Detector. It is very important when there is, in fact, smoke or fire present. It is more of a serious pain in the ass, though, when it sends out the alert to the rest of your body when there is simply a lot of steam from a hot shower! If your Amygdala is super sensitive you have to learn how to take that extra half of a second to notice if you actually smell smoke or feel the heat of the fire before you take action. You don't want to go running out to the street in just your towel if there really isn't any danger now, do you?
So here are three things you can do if you have a super sensitive amygdala:
Have you ever wished that your Anxiety was a living, breathing person....so that you could choke the living shit out of it? For most of us when we feel those all too familiar feelings associated with anxiety, we want to run and hide. We wish for the feelings to go away. We just want the whole experience, including the thoughts of worry, self-doubt, catastrophe, and flat out fear, to stop! Most of all we want reassurance. We want someone to tell us that everything is going to be OK.
That's where the paradox comes in to play. "A paradox is a statement that, despite apparently sound reasoning from true premises, leads to a self-contradictory or a logically unacceptable conclusion."
We think that we WANT reassurance, AND has reassurance ever actually stopped your anxiety? It might back it off for a moment or two, but it definitely does not help to lessen it in the long term. Reassurance (as well as resistance) actually feeds the Anxiety Monster! Picture Anxiety like the green blobby Mucinex guy from the commercials. What might he look like if we took reassurance and resistance out of his diet?
Sounds simple, but we all know how dieting works! You make a little progress here and then right back to old habits, right? What about a "lifestyle" change? Dieting focuses on what we "can't" have. It puts our brains in a place of lack or deprivation and all those two concepts do is trigger the part of us that wants "more" of whatever we are deprived of. Vicious cycle material there folks! Let's consider a different way of approaching what we "feed" our Anxiety.
What does work?
1) Embracing Your Anxiety
2) Leaning Into the Uncomfortable Feeling
3) Moving Toward Whatever You are Afraid of
Sounds crazy, right? Counterintuitive? Well, here's the thing, that's the paradox. The only way to deal with your anxiety is to deal with it. It isn't going away. You are stuck with it. Like an annoying, socially awkward friend who tries to convince you to pay attention and only play with him or her. You may be completely irritated by this "friend" or even feel bullied or manipulated by them, but they are here to stay and you have to figure out how to deal with them.
Just like that socially awkward friend, though, if you accept them the way that they are, learn how to communicate better (it starts with "talking back" to Anxiety), and look for how Anxiety can help you (remembering deadlines, keeping you safe in situations that are truly dangerous) then the two of you will be quite a team!
The voice behind Auntie Anxiety is Lynn Dutrow, Courage Coach and Counselor