“What a hungry fox constantly dreams of is a chicken!” – Mehmet Murat ildan
To beat an anxiety disorder, you have to think like a fox. Anxiety disorders are sly and always working to defeat you. To be the winner and not the loser, you will have to out-smart your anxiety frequently. If you view treatment as a game and anxiety as an opponent, you will change the narrative and on your way to beating anxiety.
When working with a young client with anxiety, I encourage the client to name their anxiety. I have heard names like ‘Monster,’ ‘Buddy,’ ‘Poopy Pants’, and ‘Sh*t Head.’ Naming anxiety helps to externalize it and make it your opponent. You are not your anxiety. Too often clients internalize anxiety as if it was part of their identity. YOU ARE NOT YOUR ANXIETY. Anxiety is your opponent. Go ahead give your anxiety a name and let the game begin.
If you are going to win this game, there must be level a playing field by making fair rules. If you continue to play by anxiety’s rules, you will lose every time. By changing the rules of the game, you have a fighting chance to beat anxiety. There are five rules to beat anxiety (and OCD). Part one of this blog article addresses rules one and two.
Rule 1 – Accept the thought/obsession that triggers your anxiety. (‘What if people laugh at me when I go to the party?’, ‘What if that dog I touched contaminated me?’, ‘What if my increased heart rate is a heart attack?’, Etc.) Acceptance doesn’t mean you agree or surrender to the thought. You accept the thought/obsession is present. It is not giving in to the thought. If you try to push the thought away, the thought returns stronger. If you hyper-focus on a thought, you give the thought opportunity and power to hook you. Acceptance is the fine line between fighting a thought and surrendering. Much like Judo resisting your opponent will result in defeat. Like in Judo to defeat anxiety you make an adjustment, so anxiety loses balance and power. Acceptance helps you neutralize your anxiety/OCD.
Rule 2 – Don’t focus on the thought or obsession. As mentioned above if you focus on the thought or obsession you will be hooked and on the way to defeat. Rather than focus on the worry or obsession, focus on a valued activity – spend time with family, do work, enjoy a meal, etc. Mindfulness meditation and yoga are great ways to help train your mind to accept thoughts and refocus.
In my next blog post, I will write about the final three rules to beat anxiety. If you have any questions or thinking about beating your anxiety or OCD call me (407-324-7979.)
Michael is a Licensed Mental Heath Counselor specializing in OCD and Anxiety Disorders. Located in Winter Park he helps adolescents, adults and families battling OCD and Anxiety Disorders. Michael also facilitates popular support and counseling groups for OCD. He is a Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and Diplomate of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. Michael is also an active member of the International OCD Foundation. His passion is helping and advocating for people and families struggling with OCD/anxiety disorders and increasing public awareness about OCD.