The importance of challenging ourselves, even when anxiety is at its worst. We all know that feeling, of an intrusive thought coming in you try to get ignore it but it just gets louder and louder and louder, like an alarm clock that wont turn off. You try your best to not listen to the alarm, but eventually you snap and want to break the alarm clock to stop the incessant beeping. Unfortunately, you can’t just turn off thoughts, or break them and the more you try not listening to them the worse they get. The solution to these thoughts seems backwards, but welcoming and accepting the thoughts actually helps relieve the anxiety being felt.
Say you have a thought that something terrible is going to happen, you keep playing scenarios out in your head the plot always ends in a horrible terrible outcome. You become so engrossed that your heart starts to beat so fast, you begin to tremble, maybe you carry out compulsions to try and relive your anxiety and before you know it you are having a full fledged panic attack. You try so hard to ignore the thoughts, you might pray, cry or beg them to stop but they just become worse and worse, until you are on the floor trembling in fear. Eventually the panic attack subsides, and your anxiety calms down, until the next intrusive thought enters and the cycle starts up all over again. Now let’s go over this same exact situation but try a different approach, the intrusive thought comes in but this time you allow it in, you even welcome it in, this time you acknowledge its presence and you do not react. The key thing here is not reacting, no matter how intense, no matter how awful the outcome your mind is presenting you. You DON’T react, it might seem so scary, but being brave and allowing yourself to feel the anxiety come on and not fight it will prove to your brain that there is nothing to actually be afraid of. Overtime the more we react to a thought, the more our brain becomes hardwired to think that we need to be afraid of that thought, and the more that thought pops up starting a never ending cycle of fear and anxiety. The moment we decide to let go, and not be afraid of our thoughts, and allow them to be present without reacting no matter how painful resisting the urge of wanting to just completely give in and freak out (like breaking the alarm clock) is worth enduring the temporary pain for the long term benefits. This will help reverse the ingrained fear response. How to do this? It is much easier said then done, the suffocation and intense fear can be so consuming it sounds terrifying to have to sit alone and welcome the anxiety in, but the less you react the quicker the thought gets bored and leaves – you are not providing any energy to fuel the thought. Lets go back to the analogy of an alarm clock, the alarm clock is beeping this time you welcome the alarm clock in, you don’t react and you even accept the uncertainty of not knowing if the alarm clock will ever stop beeping. You are not resisting it and you are not trying to ignore it, you simply are okay with having the alarm noise apart of your life. Overtime you have become so comfortable with having the noise in the background it gets quieter and quieter, you even forget it is there at times. That is the goal with intrusive thoughts, you have to accept the uncertainty and be okay no matter how intense or horrible the thoughts & feelings being presented to you are, even if your mind tells you that you are wrong to be okay with the thought because something BAD is going to happen!!! Try your hardest to resist the urge to react, think about all the times you have been through this and nothing bad ever happened, take that risk even just once, it will be worth it. Think about all the time you gave in to its demands and the time and energy and pain it has caused you, and again NOTHING bad happened….anxiety is a monster and it may never go away but you can learn to coexist with horrible a roommate.