Coming to Terms (Literally) with Your Anxiety
Updated: Oct 12
It’s human nature to search for the right words to describe and better understand difficult thoughts and feelings. We use figurative language to literally come to terms with difficult experiences. By naming and describing our emotions, we can begin to heal, grow, and strive for change. Heightened levels of anxiety can challenge our ability to clearly see ourselves and the world around us. At times we know logically that our thoughts and emotions are not rational, but the thoughts and feelings persist. Changing the way you think and speak about your anxiety can be an effective therapeutic exercise. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at how language and the stories we tell ourselves can help shape and manage anxiety.
Create Your Narrative
Sometimes, it’s hard to see anxiety clearly. We’re too close to gain the perspective necessary to fully understand how anxiety is impacting our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. When we can take a step back and learn to see and describe our experiences, we can give ourselves the distance to better understand ourselves. Next time you experience anxiety, remove yourself from the anxiety-inducing situation. Then, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and consider what actually happened. As you step into the role of observer, witness, or narrator, this mindfulness exercise helps separate *you* from your thoughts. Who was present? Where were you? What took place that triggered your anxiety? How did it impact you (physically, emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally)? Now, report back to yourself. Tell yourself the story of what happened. Push away all the worried thinking, concerns about other people perceived you, and what you could or should have been done differently. Just tell yourself the factual truth (what could be observed through the five senses) of what took place.
Personify Your Anxiety
It can be a helpful exercise to remove your anxiety from yourself entirely and think of it as if it exists independently from you. Some people find it beneficial to envision themselves and their anxiety sitting on opposite sides of a scale. How is your anxiety impacting you? Is it outweighing you, and holding down one side of the scale? Are you and your needs outweighing the anxiety? Are you on even ground?
Another exercise you can use is to name and speak to your anxiety. This separates you from your anxiety and allows you to consider it on its own. When you feel overwhelmed by your anxiety, speak to it. Tell your anxiety you’ve had enough. This may seem strange, but it is an effective way of managing anxiety for many people.
Keep Your Enemy Closer
Personifying your anxiety is also a great way to get to know it and how it impacts you. You know that old saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?” This applies to your anxiety too. The better you know your anxiety and understand the myriad ways it impacts you, the better able you are to manage these effects.
Work with a Professional
If you want another perspective to help you develop skills and strategies to manage anxiety, consider working with us at Cedar Counseling & Wellness. Our knowledgeable therapists are here to help you explore and process your most complicated thoughts and emotions from anxiety and depression to trauma-informed counseling. When you’re ready to get started, don’t hesitate to reach out. We look forward to hearing from you.