In other words, we tend to over-estimate the danger and under-estimate our ability to successfully deal with it.
So the cycle of anxiety can go something like this:
Step 1: We imagine future scenarios which are scary, such as redundancy, health problems, unpleasant social situation etc.
Step 2: We (often unintentionally) underestimate the coping resources we already have in place, for example, supportive family and friends, cognitive skills, our ability to take positive action, experience in dealing with similar situations in the past, innate resilience etc
Step 3: We engage in safety-seeking behaviours, including avoiding and escaping any situation which may be perceived as dangerous. This helps in the short term, but does not help us break the cycle, because we believe that this behaviour was what prevented the feared event from occurring.
To help stop maintaining the anxiety cycle we can do two things:
1. Spend some time realistically assessing the events we feel anxious about. What is the worst case scenario? Do you have any evidence that it is likely to happen? What is most likely to happen?
2. List all the resources you have available to support your emotional health. Do you have strong, positive relationships with friends and family? Can you think of at least 3 examples of how you coped with hardship in the past (not necessarily the exact situation that causes you anxiety--we are looking for proof of overall resilience). Can you remember an example of a difficult situation where you didn’t think you could work through it, but you did? What specific action can you take if the worst case scenario happens? Can you visualise yourself successfully coping with the situation you feel anxious about?
The above suggestions are not about blind optimism or positive thinking, but helping us recognise the full extent of the resources we already have in place, whilst being realistic about the level of threat we face.
If Fernwood Clinic can help you with anxiety management, please feel free to call us on 020 8673 8604.
Fernwood Clinic Team
Read more articles on emotional health from our blog