Happy New Year!
I hope one of your New Years resolutions is to join me in the 30 day exposure challenge and begin changing your relationship with anxiety. This is not easy work, but I know we can do it together! Some of you may be ready to jump right in while others may watch from the sidelines as they design a program that feels right for them. Still others may be working through 30 days of healthy habits that will create positive change in their lives.
Everyone goes at their own speed and has different goals. The idea is to start with something and begin now, not waiting for a day where you feel like doing it or have less stress or whatever other excuse tugs at you to just stick with the status quo. If you're already uncomfortable. . . why not start today?
My goal is to stop worshiping at the altar of anxiety this year. My hope is that by following a 30 day program of exposure to my feared situations and thoughts, along with a course of relaxation and basic self care, I'll find myself further along the path to recovery. I know that I'm hard wired to default to anxiety when stress comes knocking. Part of that is biology and part years of conditioning. Research shows that these types of practices help smooth out those well worn grooves and perhaps they won't be so deep and easy to slide into in the future. I'm also hoping this will inspire others to take back their lives, moving forward with or without anxiety.
I can't tell you how many people I've spoken with recently who have been experiencing similar feelings. Many talk about having a low to mid-level feeling of anxiety, thoughts like anxiety radio streaming through, or simply a feeling of unease most days. Others experience panic with some regularity and fear it's return. Some talk about waking up each morning with anxiety coursing through their bodies like electricity.
All of these people go on with their days to do amazing things.
Exposure and anxiety work can be a mixed bag, just like life. Some days, I throw on the cowgirl boots and cruise across the bridge, meet someone for coffee and make travel plans. I feel like I can conquer the world and I'm filled with dreamy inspiration. Other days, I think being a hermit isn't such a bad idea; I'm sure my anxiety will always have the upper hand and wreak havoc on my life (catastrophic thinking & fortune telling for you CBT buffs).
That's just the nature of the beast and I can expect and prepare for both types of days to pop up. As we all know, feeling states are not static - happy, sad, anxious, angry, joyful, surprised, nervous, elated - all have their moment and none stick around forever.
So, enough of the intro and pep talk, are you ready to roll up your sleeves and get down to work? My 30 day challenge begins Monday, January 4th, 2010 and finishes up Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010.
"Here's the basic strategy. Get anxious on purpose. Once you are anxious, encourage the symptoms to continue for a long time. During this time, stop worrying and start supporting yourself. Let go of your safety crutches. Do this over and over, in all your fearful situations."
(R. Reid Wilson, Ph.D., pg. 33, Facing Panic)
I have many great books and workbooks that help with anxiety, but I'm narrowing this challenge to one and I will be working out of Facing Panic as my main guide. Here are three that I highly recommend and two very helpful websites. Choose a plan that feels good to you, map out your daily goals and stick with it. Here's what my plan entails:
Relaxation & Calming Skills (Chart 1)
*Natural breathing (10xday) -- about 2 minutes
*Calming breath (10xday) - 2-3 minutes
*Progressive muscle relaxation (2xday - am & pm) - about 10 minutes
I'm going to choose from the following each day. Some days I'll be able to do more than others, but the idea is to do something each day.
*Interoceptive exposure (charts 2 and 3)
*Practicing with feared situations (charts 4, 5, 6 & 7)
*Cognitive exposure/Setting aside time to worry (read this)
Ok, so let's get started! If you're joining me in any capacity, please leave a comment and let me know how your progress is coming along! This is a place to talk about days that aren't going so smoothly, as well as a place to celebrate your victories.