Life is uncertain, and this fact creates a great deal of discomfort in the form of intense anxiety and fear for many people. Most people respond to this experience by working overtime in their minds to solve, fix, or predict problems they perceive. The frequently practiced behavior of responding to our fear and anxiety by searching tirelessly for an answer/fix is an attempt to escape the uncomfortable feelings. It is this attempt to escape feeling anxious that is actually the reason we suffer from anxiety.
The problem inherent in our search to escape anxiety through cognitive problem solving is that we are trying to reason while in a state of reduced cognitive abilities. Our wise mind is less available to us when we are anxious and fearful because anxiety and fear are part of a survival response in our nervous system, and therefore our blood is moving away from our brains and into our muscles readying us for action.
It is not anxiety or fear itself that creates disorder, but rather it is our unhealthy relationship to being anxious or fearful that breeds disorder. We mistakenly believe that we will finally be free from anxiety and fear if we just get the right answer. Even if we arrive to a conclusion that provides some relief, it is only temporary, and soon enough we find ourselves right back in the destabilizing cycle of trying again to escape discomfort.
Here is a way to change this cycle of suffering.
Rule of Thumb:
Instead of trying to fix, figure out, or predict problems when you are feeling intense anxiety and fear, pause and let go of problem solving. Accept your anxiety and fear as a temporary experience, and allow time for your discomfort to decrease on its own.
Repeat this process of letting go and accepting your temporary experience.
Return to the problem when your discomfort subsides organically, and then decide what to do.
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Be Kind to Yourself, Be Courageous, and Thrive.
Dr. Tim Kershenstine is a professional coach who specializes in OCD and anxiety.