Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Living an Exposure Lifestyle

One afternoon I was talking to my friend Michael who co-directs a university anxiety clinic. We had gotten our families together to go down to the river, jump around on the rocks and enjoy a beautiful day together. To get to the river and rock jumping, however, we had to walk over a suspension bridge. To say that I don't like crossing this bridge by foot or any other form of transportation, would be an understatement. I see people casually riding their bikes over the bridge, walking dogs and allowing children to peer over the railing and shudder. It feels like it's a good football field above the water and is suspended under a canopy of concrete highway.

"Oh man, I did NOT like that crazy bridge. But, if I don't walk over it now & then, it gets harder, so I gotta do it."

“That’s good exposure lifestyle, Kristin,” Michael said.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Exposure lifestyle. . .My colleague & I tell people that once they’ve graduated from therapy, it’s important to go on living an exposure lifestyle . . .purposefully doing things that make them feel anxious in their daily life so that anxiety doesn’t get the upper hand.”

“That’s fantastic!” I responded, getting excited. “That should be everyone’s mantra. What a great phrase! Living an exposure lifestyle.”

I've thought of that clever term often as I approach situations in my daily life that make me wonder, "Will I get anxious here?". It's a new addition to my coping cards along with some of my favorites "Stir up trouble for yourself"; "Is this Discomfort or Danger"; and one I got from my sister-in-law "Don't live a small life".

How do you live an exposure lifestyle & not allow anxiety to limit you? Are there ways that you incorporate “exposure & practice” into your daily life? -- Times when you take the elevator just because it’s good for you to do so; volunteer to present at a meeting even though you’re afraid; take the highway, even when no one would know if you took the back roads? I look forward to hearing from you!

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