Anxiety on Many LevelsJan 11, 2022
Hi guys. Sorry I’m late. I feel like we’re close enough so I can be honest and tell you why I’m late. We met on November 3rd. That was the day of my first Socially -Appropriate-ish newsletter. If we were dating, we may even be engaged by now… so here goes the truth! Because, that’s important in a relationship.
I wrote what I thought was a great write-up about one technique to help reduce anxiety. I happen to know anxiety well, working with adults and children for many years. So, I wrote what I believe is true and sent it to my Editor in Chief. Otherwise known as Husband. And he was like — Hmm? It’s not totally correct: Our thoughts absolutely can change reality. And in fact, he felt that I cannot omit the whole concept of Davening (prayer) which essentially is thoughts directed to G-d. Davening (and other forms of closeness to G-d) can change reality. I tried explaining to him that this is a therapy newsletter and… but he thought it was too important to leave out.
So together we discussed it (like good married couples do) and agreed that although it’s in vogue to believe that having positive thoughts will directly impact reality in a positive way – this blanket statement is true in a narrower way than people think.
Another question we debated: does having negative thoughts and anxieties bring on negative events? Or can it protect us from negative events?
The mind-body connection is real. That we all agree on. But to what extent do our thoughts influence our realities? We went back and forth about this. This morning my Editor sends me this text:
“What I mean to say is - our thoughts can affect our body and our focus and our confidence which will influence our reality. But it can’t affect anyone else unless you are Darth Vader.”
Basically, what I am presenting to you in today‘s newsletter is a topic for discussion. I have a little anxiety about it, but that’s ok. The newsletter I originally wrote is printed below.
What do you think? (And if you agree with me, would you like to be my new editor? 🤣)
Since Covid-19 shut down the world in March 2020, it has been difficult for people with anxiety. Catastrophic Thinking is a form of anxiety. Loosely translated, catastrophic thinking is imagining that the worst possible outcome will happen. Catastrophic thinking can both cause anxiety and be a result of anxiety. Some people tend to have Catastrophic Thinking on a regular basis. “What if this? And what if that?”
Anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. Having appropriate amounts of anxiety, helps us behave in ways that keep us healthy and safe. Most of us have some level of anxiety - that is healthy, normal and to be expected. Too much anxiety, however, can be difficult to manage (and difficult for the people around you).
Anxiety is rampant. And Anxiety is exhausting.
The truth is, for the most part, our collective anxieties most often never materialize! And even more fascinating, in true emergencies, our anxieties are often unusually quiet.
So, if anxiety is such a poor predictor of reality, why do we worry and obsess about things that are unlikely to happen? In fact, why do we worry at all once we’ve seen that anything beyond our wildest dreams can happen and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it? What is it about anxiety that makes it seem so real and so logical and so completely impossible to shut off?
Answer is… (drumroll please) We are all craving certainty and safety! Physical and emotional safety for ourselves and for the people we love. There’s so much uncertainty nowadays. And there’s no way to guarantee safety. That is cause for anxiety. And it is very uncomfortable.
How can we help ourselves and our children manage our feelings of anxiety?
Here is a technique that works for me:
Some believe that our thoughts create our own reality. That is not true.
We are powerful beings, but we are not G-d. Our thoughts cannot create safety, and we cannot avoid danger by simply thinking about it in advance. Our constant anxious thoughts will not prevent disaster from happening. Nor will worrying about a loved one keep them safe.
But our thoughts can help us create peace of mind.
Once we are using our imagination, we might as well imagine and visualize the best possible outcome! Not because it will directly influence reality, but because it will help us stay calm in the moment and make us more focused on our goals and pleasant to live with.
If imagining positive outcomes is too out of reach for you now, I get that. So here’s another option!
Try this: Find a place of neutrality. Begin to develop this stance: “I am not feeling safe right now. But I am also not in active danger.”
It’s the space that we can tell ourselves that the chances of something good happening, and something bad happening are both possible. We are in neutral. It’s about seeing the current reality for what it is.
It’s a place that is much more stable and comfortable than fear.
This is what helps me when my anxiety creeps up. This stance can be used with big and small anxieties and with people of all ages. Any time you are faced with an anxious thought, you can remind yourself that it may or may not happen. You are stronger than you think you are, and you will deal with the issues as they come.
Use your energies on something more useful and more positive. Figure out what you need in the moment to help you get through this. When you do this, the people around you will thank you. And you will be modeling peace of mind for your children too.
We don’t typically cure our anxieties, we manage them. There are many, many approaches to managing our anxieties, and we will review more in the future.
But this shift to neutral thinking has proven to be powerful.
Especially for yours truly.