Tricks for Dealing with Anxiety
Q: Do you have any tricks for dealing with anxiety?
Funny you used the word tricks! Actually, as Dr. David Carbonell explains, worrying itself is tricking us. In his book, The Worry Trick: How Your Brain Tricks You into Expecting the Worst and What You Can Do About It, Carbonell explains his philosophy and research around worry or anxiety. Carbonell has several tips about how to recognize when worries are legitimate and dangerous and when to move on and eliminate unnecessary worry.
- Belly breathing. Breathing from your belly, focusing on your breath rather than your thoughts, is an incredibly important way to break the worry cycle. And, when we understand that the reason this works is because we are moving the worry from a response to imminent danger (which would require us to run or fight) to a response to discomfort or doubt (which requires us to pause and think), it gives an anatomical explanation to this positive response.
- The rule of opposites. Instead of breathing comfortably, we hold our breath. Instead of waiting and listening, we run. The rule of opposites is a great way to expose the worry for what it is – discomfort – rather than danger. If you find yourself avoiding others because of a worry, tell someone you trust. If you find yourself holding your breath, breathe deeply. You’ll end up feeling much calmer and you won’t be allowing yourself to give into that worry trick.
- Designated worry period. Sometimes there are things that you truly need to worry about. In those cases, set aside 10 minutes a few times a week. During those 10 minutes, worry hard. And when those 10 minutes are over, let your brain know that you did your worrying about those issues for the day and it’s time to move on.
Perhaps the most important thing that Dr. Carbonell imparts to his readers is that if you create a new narrative around anxiety, namely that anxiety is a trick and not a disorder, it allows you to recover from it. Ok, you’ve been tricked before and you’ll be tricked again, but you now have the choice to select a different course for yourself!