Tomorrow never comes, yet we wait until tomorrow for happiness, fulfillment, intimacy and closeness. How many times have you said something like “when my anxiety reduces a bit I’ll make more effort with my partner” or “when I feel less stressed I’ll stop smoking/drinking/shouting” (insert as appropriate)? But tomorrow never comes. The problem with “when” statements is that they usually tie up your goal so tightly that you never reach it, a bit like one of those big balls of sticky tape that are impossible to unwrap.
The truth is that you can have feelings and take action that has value in your life and moves you closer to your goal. You can feel anxious and make effort with your partner and you can feel stressed and live a cigarette free life.
Now here’s the rub, this may well generate anxious thoughts for you (I guess you could see that one coming!). Anxious thoughts are OK if we recognise them for what they are, just thoughts. They are not truths and they are not us. Thoughts tend to come and go. They are a bit like the annoying pigeons that hang out around my flat. I can watch them come and go and mostly they don’t bother me. Sometimes they will try to climb into my windows and sometimes they wake me up at 5am making an almighty dinn, but they are essentially harmless. I can choose to let them bother me, shake my fists when they stare at me through the windows, or I can simply acknowledge their existence and carry on with whatever I’m doing. The defusion technique I previously blogged about is a great way to do this distancing with your thoughts (read that post here). The benefit of this way of living is that you get to do things that move you towards your goal and learn to make room for your feelings. After you’ve done this a few times you get better at it. As you get better at it you start to feel more contented with life and need to do it less. It’s kind of like accepting your anxiety, stress, sadness or anger allows it to move somehow and slowly ebb away.
So this is a call to action. Decide what you want out of life and plan how you are going to get it. Then look at all of the anxious, scary, angry or downright irrational thoughts your mind is churning up, thank your mind for trying to protect you, and get stuck in with achieving them!
I help people who suffer from anxiety in my counselling practice in Manchester. Ring 07966 390857 for an appointment.