Decompress the Stress Anticipate Anxiety

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If I asked you what makes you anxious, it probably wouldn't take long to come up with some go to things, and most likely they are things like public speaking, job interviews, and first dates. It's easy to feel the nerves, the stomach flutter, and the flush of your skin even when just thinking about those things. Let's take that intuition a step further and look at your plans for this week. 

Zoom In

Is there anything on your calendar that is holding a sense of dread, anything you secretly wish you could reschedule? Are there any times when you always feel stressed - running late to pick the kids because your standing Wednesday meeting runs long?

  1. Mark those moments on your week, and plan to give yourself space to take a deep breath before or after. This could look like:
  • Listening to a calming podcast in the car
  • Finding a quite space for 2 minutes and doing a breathing excerise
  • Noticing your negative self-talk, "I can't," "I'll fail" and turning it around, "I can," "I'll succeed"

Taking a look through your week, month or even year and marking when you experience anxiety will create a map to refer to next time. This will give you advance notice that an anxious event is coming, and you can make a plan on how to address it. 

Zoom Out

But there are even more predictions we can make about anxiety based on the calendar or seasons - holiday events, family gatherings, start of school year or semester, conferences for work, tax due dates.

Here's some techniques to plan for anxiety in bigger events and work to face it:
  1. Create a run-through of the event or the day. Break it into smaller chunks, map out what will happen and when. Role play the conversations and actions.
  2. Ask yourself what is the best case (perfect) scenario and what is the worst case scenario. When you are catastrophizing, you are choosing the most statistically rare outcome. Once you address perfect and disaster outcomes, think through what is the most likely outcome. This is the one to focus on.
  3. Figure out the "pain points" in an anxiety provoking event - these are the one to rehearse for, creating some "muscle memory" in your brain. In reality, you are connecting things in your brain to add control and stability to your response. This grows new synaptic connections and makes it fluid.

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