Last week I discussed how to effectively reduce anxiety in 3 simple steps. That post mainly dealt with some of the more common thought patterns that tend to show up in anxious thinking. There are many other tools you can use to manage anxiety as well…tools like meditation, relaxation techniques, and positive self-talk are a few examples.
In this week’s article, however, I want to discuss another very effective method for dealing with anxiety. It’s called “externalizing” your anxiety.
You see, INternalizing our anxious thoughts is central to the problem.
For example, consider the phrase “I’m anxious” versus the phrase “I’m feeling anxious”. The first phrase makes the anxiety a part of your identity. YOU are anxious. The second phrase, on the other hand, begins the process of EXternalizing the anxiety. It becomes something that can come and go. It becomes something that is manageable, because it’s NOT “you”.
You can take the idea of externalizing anxiety even further as well.
To do so, actually give your anxiety its own identity. Name your anxiety. Think of it as an actual person. Think about how it dresses or how it speaks or what it looks like. The more “out there” you can take this concept, the further the anxiety gets removed from your true self.
After you’ve identified the anxiety as something outside of your true self, the next step is to become aware of when this “character” is showing up in your life. And, when it does, you can say something like “oh that’s just (whatever you name it) showing up…she gets really anxious about (whatever it is).” By externalizing your anxiety in this way, you’re much better equipped to handle it in the moment.
And if you really want to take the idea of externalizing your anxiety to the next level, you can start using a service called “Anxiety Box”. It was developed by a programmer who suffered from anxiety. He equated all of his anxiety producing thoughts to the “spam” he would get in his inbox. So, he decided to create a “spam bot” to email him (a dozen times per day) with a list of the things he most commonly freaked out about.
Seeing those thoughts emailed to him like spam helped to take the “bite” out of them by making them seem a bit ridiculous and by making them seem like what they really are: mental spam.
However far you want to take it, and however “silly” you want to get, I highly suggest experimenting with the concept of externalizing your anxious thoughts.
If you would like more information on overcoming anxiety, please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you feel you could use additional help, please contact our office at 917-609-4990 to arrange a consultation.
Dr. Amanda Itzkoff