Reframing your relationship with anxiety

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I'll eat some worms...

I don’t know about you, but when my feelings overwhelm me, the last thing I am going to eat is worms. A pint of Sea Salt Caramel Gelato or a bag of potato chips maybe, but not likely worms (unless they are gummy worms).

Believe it or not, these words are from a children’s song.  A very gross children’s song.

What I find funny about them is how we can let our thoughts and feelings convince us to do some crazy shit!

“Nobody” and “Everybody”? Yeah, that’s what us folks in the mental health field call black-and-white thinking. It’s a rare occasion that those extreme words would actually ring true. They may feel true at any given moment AND they are not actually true.  

There is a big difference between what we may think or feel is true and what actually “is” happening to us.

Let’s talk about those overwhelming feelings and what they are able to talk us into doing (or not doing)!

Most of the time when we are thinking and feeling the deep thoughts and feelings that are creating what feels like misery in our lives (and possibly convincing us that all we are worthy of doing is eating worms) we are experiencing some level of Anxiety, and it may even be teaming up with its partner in crime, Depression.  

They are sneaky and relentless bastards.

Here’s the thing to know about Anxiety, though: it is a BIG, FAT LIAR. 

Yeah, that’s right. We have been taught that our thoughts and our feelings are FACTS and I am here to tell you that thoughts and feelings are just thoughts and feelings; they are not FACTS!

You read that correctly. Our thoughts and feelings can grab our attention and even alert us to opportunities (or possibly keep us on our toes about situations to pass on), but they are not the FACTS that we sometimes interpret them to be.

Anxiety, in particular, loves to use our fear to keep us “safe.” Anxiety thinks that its job is to protect us, and in some ways, that is true; however, for those of us with an overactive Anxiety Hero, it will often attempt to protect us from people and situations that are not actually dangerous

You see, Anxiety is like your annoying cousin/neighbor/classmate/family friend (you know the one that you can’t get away from, but who is socially awkward and definitely a pain in the ass sometimes) who can be OK to talk to or hang out with in small doses, but who gets freaky and possessive if you even think about hanging out with anyone else.  

Anxiety wants you all to itself and will do just about anything to convince you that you are exclusive BFFs.

Because Anxiety thinks that its job is to (over)protect you, it prefers to make its own job easier by keeping you in places that the two of you have agreed are “safe.” You know, like at home, with your parents, maybe a close friend (although there may be some jealousy there once in a while), and if you are lucky, at school or work. 

If your Anxiety is playing the Overprotective Hero, then it’s time to have a chat, thank it for all its hard work and effort, and suggest that it take a break or at least dial it down a few notches!

If you are trying to snuff out your Anxiety, it’s going to fight back. It knows that it has an important job (keeping you safe) and it’s going to fight with all its got to stick with you.

Your job is not to assassinate it, but rather to reframe your relationship to being allies and teach it some (way) better social skills.

What would this social skills lesson look like? It starts with Acceptance.  

Do you remember either the original or the remake of the movie “The Parent Trap”?  Twin girls separated at birth end up at the same sleepover camp and take an immediate dislike to one another. They begin this campaign of torture, humiliation and retaliation on one another which disrupts that tranquility of the camp. The infuriated headmistress marches them to an isolated cabin and informs them that this will be their new home until they learn to get along.

At first, there is fuming and fussing and lots of ignoring. Then a rainstorm threatens to ruin some photos and the girls use the opportunity to help each other and find some common ground.

This is what it is like with Anxiety.  You are stuck with one another and the sooner that you accept it and find ways to work together, the sooner that you can stop hiding out, avoiding fun stuff, and eating worms.

Is anxiety keeping you from living your best life? Call us today at Charlotte Counseling & Wellness! We would love to offer you some support. 

Lynn Dutrow, LCPC, aka “Auntie Anxiety” is The Compassionate Ass Kicker.  She has a passion for encouraging others to opt out of overwhelm, slap their self-doubt silly, and to stop waiting for the imposter police to show up at their door. When she grows up, Lynn hopes to be an inspiration for others to empower themselves and pursue their purpose. She is currently working toward that goal by owning a private practice in Frederick, Maryland where she works with clients as a counselor and coach specializing in encouraging clients to embrace their stress and anxiety as tools they can use to grow and expand.  She also encourages helpers, healers, and creative entrepreneurs to talk back to their doubts and fears and she is their accountability partner in being the business beacons they were born to be. You can find out more at either www.auntieanxiety.com or www.thecompassionateasskicker.com 

Lynn Dutrow