Friday, September 28, 2007

Making Peace With Anxiety

I've been thinking lately about anxiety and why it seems to be taking up more and more of our "thinking space." I don't know that I will ever be able to answer that question fully, but it seems that as we have more transitions (e.g. changing jobs, schools, homes, roles, etc.) to navigate, we can expect anxiety to continue to crop up at these points. I've wanted for a long time to start putting together all the wonderful anti-anxiety strategies that others have taught me or that I've co-created with clients. To that end, I aim to start adding an entry a week about the subject. I hope that after some time of plugging away at it, this blog will contain a sort of anti-anxiety handbook. My general thinking about anxiety is that while it may be helpful to name the source of the anxiety (e.g. money, taxes, relationships, parenting, etc.), identifying the source doesn't make it go away or keep it from cropping up at other challenging life events. Sometimes not knowing the source simply adds fuel to anxiety's fire! Rather than focus on anxiety's origins, I'd like to explore the ways in which we make peace with anxiety's presence in our lives. What "thinking space" are we comfortable allowing anxiety to have? What rituals do we create to acknowledge anxiety's presence and keep it at bay? What can we learn from children about engaging our creative "monkey" minds about finding playful ways of coping? How can we catch ourselves thinking, and then take concrete action to address our thinking? Are there other supportive people out there that we can recruit into our anti-anxiety network?

Over the next few (or many?) weeks, I will share some vignettes about individuals' struggles with anxiety, and the creative tools they've added to their anti-anxiety bags to pull out when they feel anxiety meddling in their lives. Some of their tools are quite simple to use, others require organizing a team. Some involve brave changes in behavior, while others demand thinking about thinking. And some simply ask for detatchment from thinking entirely. From what I've learned about anxiety, there's no one right way to cope. The first step is to accept that it is a near impossibility to live a life free from anxiety, but it is possible to limit its effects on our lives, to make peace with it, as it were.

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