Embracing Anxiety: 3 Tips from a Licensed Therapist
Have you recently worked with a therapist? Each year, therapists help people with high anxiety find calm, stability, and relief. Anxiety affects millions of people, especially since 2020 when mass amounts of our population accumulated added stress from COVID-19 and increased uncertainty in their future.
Luckily, therapists at North American Health Services can offer tangible ways to embrace anxiety and work with it so you can continue living a balanced life.
Tips for Recognizing and Embracing Anxiety, from NAMHS LMFT Simeon Jones
Living with anxiety requires recognition of certain thought patterns, as well as lots of compassion for yourself. Think back to the early days, when surviving the initial COVID-19 lockdown seemed impossible, but you adapted. Living with high anxiety also requires adaptation.
Simeon Jones is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in working with adults experiencing anxiety, depression, and relationship difficulties. Here are his three tips for reducing high anxiety.
1. Remember that “Your Feelings are Valid”
Some situations call for anxiety, such as concern for a sick loved one or uncertainty over one’s job or housing. However, constant levels of anxiety can be annoying to experience, at best, and devastating at worst.
Many people with anxiety often recognize when they feel anxious. This recognition is a worthy tip in itself. When you can label your state as “anxious,” the amygdala calms down in a process called affective labeling.
If your anxiety is producing emotional variations of fear (ranging from cautious to panicked), remember that your emotional experience is real. Your feelings are valid; however, the thoughts influencing these feelings may not be.
As Simeon Jones, LMFT described in Healing Modern Anxieties in a Shifting World, persistent feelings of fear and worry are not always helpful. That’s why additional self-inquiry, relational healing, and professional support can help you move through your emotions without getting “stuck.”
2. Recognize and Label Thought Distortions
When feeling anxious, many people experience common thought distortions such as rumination and catastrophizing. These thought patterns might influence how you feel and perhaps, make you even more anxious. That feeling of anxiety is real, even if the thoughts influencing it may not necessarily reflect the truth.
For example, imagine that you messed up a presentation at work. You stumbled over your introductory slides, mispronounced a few words, and forgot to leave time for questions at the end. None of these mistakes are life-threatening, but all you can think is, “I ruined that presentation. My boss was not impressed. I might get fired. I’m going to get fired. If I get fired, I won’t be able to pay rent and support my family.”
This is a classic example of catastrophizing when after an initial stressful event, you’re experiencing a seemingly endless loop of “worst case scenarios.” When you find yourself caught in the whirlpool of catastrophizing, find ways to pause this line of thought and give your mind and body a break. The first step is to recognize and label the thought distortions, if and when they occur.
3. Connect with People
This last tip requires a bit of vulnerability because it involves being honest with people about your experience with anxiety. Connecting with someone about mental health can mean different actions, depending on your needs.
One way to connect with people might mean calling a good friend who you always feel supported by, and letting them know you had a rough day with anxiety. Or maybe during a “high anxiety” moment, you can call them or even send them a quick text, expressing that you’re having a high anxiety day. Some friends—even good friends who mean well—may need you to tell them what you need to feel supported. Maybe all you want is a simple text back that is as simple as a heart emoji, to feel seen and loved. Maybe you just want someone to laugh with you about an awkward exchange, so you can find humor amidst the anxiety.
Another way to connect with people is to find a therapist who makes you feel seen and also has the professional tools to help you grow. This also requires vulnerability and trust, as you share your story with “a stranger.” But this stranger has one job: to support you. Plus, unlike a friend, they carry less bias and understand the complexity of mental health. You also don’t need to worry about “burdening” a therapist the way you might worry about “burdening” a friend. That said, a world where people talk more openly with friends and colleagues about mental health is a beautiful thing.
If you or someone you care about struggles with high anxiety, various types of therapy can also provide relief.
Find the Right Therapist For You
Anxiety is common: we live in a world with constant change, uncertainty, and challenges. At North American Mental Health Services, we believe that feeling better starts with finding someone to listen to your experiences.