Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Showing up

Woody Allen said that 80% of life is showing up. This is a great reminder for everyone, but especially so for people with anxiety. So often when I'm working through anticipatory anxiety, I remind myself - all you gotta do is just show up.

One of my big pitfalls with doing exposure work in the past was that I measured my success by whether or not I experienced anxiety & panic. Even though I felt good about the fact that I was regularly going out and driving parts of the highway that were hard for me & sticking it out, I wasn't satisfied because I still had spots on the road where I would get huge waves of adrenaline & experience that familiar doubt of "can I really do this?" I kept waiting for those feelings to go away.

Now I realize that good practice and getting past anxiety is to take the power back & upset the normal pattern of anxious thoughts & symptoms which can lead to panic. . . I realize that I can choose to be excited when I feel anxious in a situation & see it as an opportunity for good practice. Whenever I can, I try to say "yes" to my symptoms, even if I don't really mean it at first.

In Dave Carbonell's workbook, he says that you should ask yourself these questions to measure your success in doing exposure work.

Did you show up?

Did you work through the AWARE steps to the best of your ability?

And, after reading Reid Wilson's article (The Anxiety Disorders Game) I would add that you get extra credit for these -
Did you try & provoke your anxiety symptoms? Did you invite & say yes to them? Did you try & make the symptoms stronger & keep them stonger for at least 45 minutes?

Sometimes this is exciting work for me - I get psyched up and am ready to face anything. Other times, this is hard, hard work and I just want anxiety to go back to where it came from. But, I know that showing up time and time again and saying yes to my anxiety is the way to freedom for me. What kinds of tools/techniques are working for others out there - whether you're working through your own anxiety or helping someone through theirs?


Dan said...

The best technique for me has been the provoking approach that you talked about. It works the best but is also the hardest for me to practice. After so many years of having anxiety and wanting it to go away, it is extremely difficult to actually want to get anxious and hope my symptoms actually get more intense. Forty five minutes of anxiety is a long time let alone 5 minutes. When I first started the provoking method I was only able to ride the city bus a couple of stops and then had to get off because I could not stand the waves of adrenaline that kept hitting me. I kept riding day after day and now 3 months later I ride the bus everyday for the entire trip. I have even gotten on a bus that I didn't know where it went and was able to ride it. I still get anxious on the bus at times but I continue to ride knowing that I am getting better each trip.

Thanks so much for your post and I look forward to your next one

Anxiety Girl said...

I like how Reid Wilson says that once you work through something that brings you anxiety and beat it, it's important to go back and do it again from time to time to inoculate yourself from the sensations & thoughts. I know that it's true for me - even if a certain place on the highway is now "no big deal", I have to drive it now & again (or more regularly) to keep it that way. That's great that you worked up to riding the bus everyday & that you keep on doing it - way to go!