We come now to the final installment of this series on anxiety. Before picking up with where we left of last time, let’s tie that post to this one.
There we talked about the importance of recapturing territory in our lives.
To do this, we have to:
1. Go on the offensive mentally
2. Remember that anxiety starts in the mind
3. Go on the offensive behaviorally
Our crucial point under #3 was:
You have to begin moving toward that which creates your anxiety
I used the compelling story of Dr. Albert Ellis to illustrate this point.
This brings us current so, to move on, let’s consider one final point. I will illustrate this point with a step-by-step example.
Start at your level of discomfort with the triggering situation
Let’s take a look at the person who struggles with anxiety when confronted with enclosed spaces. (I would encourage you to be very careful here. For example, if you define yourself with a statement like “I’m claustrophobic,” then by your own definition… that’s what you are! It is wise to resist using this kind of labeling.)
What can you do behaviorally if you struggle with an anxiety born from being in or even considering enclosed spaces?
Let’s say your relative anxiety is so severe that the very thought of getting in an elevator generates anxiety in you. How do you go on the offensive behaviorally?
(If your level of anxiety is not that strong with the causal agent, then you likely would not need to start at this level. You could move on to step two – or wherever it is that your discomfort begins. And feel free to enlist the aid of a friend along the way, if you think this would help you.)
Step 1 – Start by going to a local hotel or office building and sit in sight of the elevator
Just sit there… and observe the elevator. Take charge of your thoughts and emotions here. Repeat this until you conquer the challenge on this level.
Step 2 – Walk to the elevator, push the UP button, then step away from the elevator and watch the door open, then close, without entering the elevator
Be sure you are looking into the elevator as you do this. Remember, you are not getting on the elevator in this step.
Take charge of your thoughts and feelings here. Repeat this step until you conquer the challenge of this level. If you have to do this several times over the space of, let’s say, a week… that’s fine.
Step 3 – If you need another intervening step, push the button, step on the elevator, and then step off
You’ll be more comfortable doing this with an empty elevator. And remind yourself in advance, “I’m getting off before the door closes.” You don’t plan to stay on the elevator at this step.
Take charge of your thoughts and feelings here. Repeat this step until you conquer the challenge of this level. Remember, the issue isn’t speed. Repeat this step until you’re ready to move on.
Step 4 – Ride the elevator up one floor and get off. When you’re ready, ride the elevator back down
Apply the same instructions as in all the other steps (take charge of thoughts and feelings….)
Step 5 – Increase the number of floors ridden up and down
As before, apply the same instructions that follow each of the other steps.
I have illustrated this point with sensitivity to enclosed spaces. But you can easily modify this technique to fit whatever activates your anxiety.
If you follow these instructions rigorously, the anxiety response in you will be extinguished to the triggering agent. It’s inevitable.
Anxiety, like any other cognitive/emotional pest can stunt our happiness in life. It can shrink us. We do not have to settle for this.
It is my hope and intention that if you struggle with anxiety, you have found some practical and useful tools in this series to facilitate your overcoming this challenge.
You can do it!