Thursday, February 21, 2008

Feeling Confident and Competent: A Possible Antidote to Anxiety

Anxiety often has more influence in particular settings in our lives, less so in others. For some, family life is fraught with anxiety. For others, anxiety has its strongest pull while at work, school, or just being alone. If you find that anxiety speaks to you less loudly in certain spheres than others, it may be because some practices of competence and confidence help keep anxiety at bay in those settings. A former client of mine found that he experienced anxiety less acutely at work, where he felt confident and competent in his job, and less so at home where his family demeaned him for experiencing severe anxiety. My client worked with chronically ill patients who could sympathize with him about living with a debilitating affliction that often comes on without warning. At work he felt valued for the service he provided, was given positive feedback about his performance, and was offered some breathing room when he wasn't feeling at his best.

His home life was a very different story, with a lot of dismissiveness, negativity, and a sense that he should just "get over" the anxiety. At home he learned to remind himself of all the ways he was confident and competent in other areas of life, and though he couldn't control what family members might say, he could be his "own safe harbor" in his mind when their negativity would start to get to him.

In our own lives we can find areas where we feel a great sense of confidence and competence, and remind ourselves of those successes when dealing with other areas of life where anxiety speaks more loudly.

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