Those who deal with anxiety in a positive way usually have:
• a sense of self-determination
• a feeling of involvement in life’s experiences, and
• an ability to change negative into positive thinking.
Self-determination refers to a personal ability to control or adapt to the events of everyday living. A great deal of anxiety is perpetuated by how we think about ourselves and even anxiety itself. Is the anxiety in control of us, or can we learn to control the anxiety? Rather than seeing ourselves as helpless in trying to overcome obstacles, we can begin to define ourselves as problem-solvers. We can remember specific times when we have been successful in solving problems and then define ourselves in those terms. We can learn to trust that we will have success in meeting life’s difficulties. When we take this approach, we begin to face problematic situations as challenges which, when resolved, can bring new and exciting opportunities into our lives.
Involvement means opening ourselves up to the world around us and defining ourselves as active participants in life. It means letting friends and family members into our personal lives and sharing our private experiences with others who can be trusted. Cultivating a social network serves us well when we are dealing with anxiety-provoking situations. Talking our way through a crisis in the presence of a supportive listener, rather than holding it in alone, is one of our best ways of gaining helpful feedback, putting the situation into perspective, and sensing that we are not alone. When we lack involvement with others, we often feel vulnerable and may wonder whether we have the resources to cope with anxiety.
An ability to define things positively is one of the main attributes
of those who deal well with anxiety. The life process is one of loss and gain – it’s as natural as night and day. When we trust that our losses will give rise to new gains and life experiences, the anxiety and worry associated with loss need not be devastating.
For example, the loss of a job can open the door to more satisfying
employment and the opportunity for more fulfilling life experiences. The clue is to change our negative thoughts about situations into more positive thoughts – and positive feelings will usually follow a change in thinking.
For example, if a close friend moves away, rather than thinking negatively about how lonely and devastated you will feel, think about the good memories you will always have, how your friendship will leave a positive legacy that will always touch your life, how you can still keep in touch and visit, and how you can now spend your time in new and positive pursuits. There really is no need for overwhelming anxiety in this situation.
We can choose to move toward the open doors of life rather than knocking on closed ones. The clue to handling anxiety well is to acquire the skills we need to feel empowered. This requires a good, honest exploration into our lives. We need to explore the strengths that we already have for coping with stress, as well as to learn new skills. A professional therapist has a number of specific techniques for the treatment of anxiety, as well as overall life strategy plans for dealing with these problems and other life experiences. We need to be able both to comfort ourselves and to let others nurture us as well. All of us can learn, with some healthy exploration, to manage anxiety successfully.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT