By Dr. Melanie Badali, R. Psych.
A new year is upon us once again and people are talking about New Year’s resolutions. Some people get excited about the beauty of a new beginning, while others can’t be bothered because they’ve been burned in the past. Either way, a new year is a good time for a fresh perspective. Here, Dr. Melanie Badali will discuss gaining a new perspective on anxiety this year.
The definition of a resolution is, “A firm decision to do or not to do something.” This year, I’ve decided to focus on opportunities and face my fears.
It seems obvious that given the choice between focusing on the opportunities versus focusing on the threats in life, most people will choose to focus on the opportunities. Unfortunately, it’s harder to do than it may sound. When we feel anxious, our thoughts may automatically shift to focus on potential threats. When we pay attention to potential threats, we may feel more anxious. Do you see how we can get stuck in a spiral of anxiety?
New Perspective on Anxiety: How Do We Manage the Spiral of Anxiety?
The trick is in the do.
When our anxious thoughts and emotions dictate our actions, managing our anxiety can become harder. As uncomfortable as it may seem, sometimes we have to act the opposite of how we feel. Paradoxically, the things we may do to decrease our anxiety in the short term can fuel our anxiety, making it worse for us in the long run (for example, avoiding a difficult conversation in the short-term will likely only increase anxiety in the long-term). By facing our fears and doing what scares us, we can learn that the fear is unfounded or that we are able to cope with the feared outcome. How do we gain this new perspective on anxiety and make a change in our lives?
The key is to figure out if we’re doing or avoiding something out of preference (we don’t actually like it), or if we’re avoiding it because we feel anxious.
Ask yourself the following question:
If I knew for sure (insert fear here) _________________________, was not going to happen, what would I do?
Are you missing out on opportunities?
To help you identify the situations that you typically avoid, here’s an exercise from the Anxiety Canada website. Try to come up with as many answers as possible to the following questions:
If you woke up tomorrow morning and all your anxiety had magically disappeared;
Finish the following sentences:
Anxiety can feel very uncomfortable, so it’s not unusual to want that feeling to stop. Remember anxiety is normal, it isn’t dangerous, it can actually be helpful, and it won’t last forever. Knowing this can help you act bravely. Brave is a new perspective on anxiety. Dr. Melanie has given some extra tips on how to enter the new year bravely, read that blog post here.
PERSPECTIVE ON ANXIETY: 5 FACTS
“Anxiety is a problem when your body reacts as if there is danger when there is no real danger. It’s like having an overly sensitive smoke alarm system in your body!”