Ah, anxiety. One of the only things that can be our closest companion and our greatest nemesis all at the same time.
For many of us, anxiety has become a pretty common fixture in our daily lives. What began as nature’s way of alerting us to potential dangers has turned into an unwelcome “what if” scenario generator and a glass half empty inner voice.
But at its core, anxiety is still designed to be a beneficial radar to keep us from harm. So how do we get it back there? How do we rediscover its healthy origins?
Well, through the years, more and more research has surfaced proving the therapeutic effectiveness of naming our anxiety. In other words, we can validate our emotions by putting them into words.
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We would also like to propose a slightly different take: Actually assign your anxiety a name. Yep, that’s right! Nosy Nora, Ned the Nag, Sound the Alarm Stacy. The alliterative possibilities are endless.
Let us show you what we mean. Here are five benefits of naming your anxiety!
1. You learn to appreciate your thoughts.
In its most helpful form, anxiety is there to wake up your subconscious and alert you to the things you care about or need to pay attention to.
As an exercise, let’s refer to your anxiety as a “she.” She’s a very well-meaning creature. She doesn’t mean to stress you out; she’s just trying to protect you. Acknowledge her, feel grateful that your mind is working the way it should, and then try to find healthy alternatives to her way of dealing with things.
If we try to fight her, we only give ourselves anxiety about our anxiety — and nobody wants that!
2. You separate yourself from your fears.
The more exaggerated and specific you make your perturbed persona, the better. The more acquainted you become with this “person” or “entity,” the more you can come to understand their schemes and start flipping them toward the positive — particularly when it comes to things that are out of your control.
If Worrisome Wanda can’t fix the problem no matter how hard she tries, remind her of this before she even gets started and proactively use that extra energy to imagine positive outcomes.
3. You gain perspective.
When you can separate yourself from your anxiety’s thoughts, you can allow yourself to better analyze them from a third-party perspective.
For example, say you’ve texted your significant other and haven’t heard back after a few hours. Your anxiety might begin entertaining thoughts like, “They should have responded by now. Something must be seriously wrong.”
But when we separate ourselves from those thoughts, we can get a bird’s-eye view of the situation and think, “Is this the most rational perspective? Or is it more likely that they are just on a call or turned their phone on silent to get some work done?”
4. You lighten the mood.
Although anxiety in and of itself is not something to make light of, you can use laughter as a tool to combat some of the symptoms.
When you can look Nosy Noris straight in the eye and see that he’s just being his same old nosy neighbor self, you can relieve a bit of the stress and heaviness of that moment and maybe even get a small kick out of Nosy Noris’ overreactions. Studies show that the more you can initiate laughter in the moment, the less control your anxiety has over you.
5. You can choose positive alternatives.
First, start by assigning all of your most anxious thoughts to your stressed-out alter ego. Thoughts like, “He’ll never forgive me,” or, “I’m going to get fired,” can be picked right up off your plate and transferred over to Noisy Nona’s.
Now that those thoughts are no longer your responsibility, you can replace them with constructive, beneficial (and probably more realistic) thoughts like, “This feels like a big deal now, but it will get better in a few days,” or, “They know I’m a hard worker and that I’ll do better next time.”
If anxiety is an ongoing struggle for you, give this naming tip a try! If nothing else, it will remind you that you are not defined by your struggles.
While it might take a bit longer than you’d like, you can get a hold of your anxiety — and you will! Try out these tips, and share them with a friend today.
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