If you are someone, like me, who is highly visual, then you will be good at making up scenes in your mind. It may be that you have a super overactive imagination. A wonderful imagination can be a brilliant thing – providing that you put it to good use. If you aren’t using your imagination to create something wonderful – be it music, art, creative writing, etc., and you have anxiety that’s when trouble starts to occur. Your anxiety can take advantage of that surplus of imagination and use it to create disaster movies in your mind, which, in turn, don’t help your anxiety get any better. Once created these ‘movies’ are presented to the conscious mind.
I liken this to the unconscious mind throwing a grenade over a fence to the conscious mind! I’m bored says unconscious…’Oh I know, I’ll just chuck this over to conscious!’…snigger…and watch what happens!
But how do we combat this? If you notice that the disaster movies, worst case scenarios or even worrying images are large, brightly coloured and up close to you then there are a few simple things that you can do to reduce their effect on you.
You can shrink them down, make them black and white so they already seem old, and push them further away. A really good thing that you can do with these movies is to stick a bright pink, super fluffy frame around the outside of them – nothing can be taken seriously when surrounded by a pink, fluffy frame! If you can make these scary scenes and images seem silly, then that takes away a lot of the power and control that they will have over you.
These are just three of countless helpful tips, tricks and techniques that I can share with you on managing and combating your anxiety – and I do hope that you find them useful.
When I meet people, who are suffering with anxiety, be those adults or children, a really useful question to ask them is “If you don’t want to feel anxious how do you want to feel?” Now there’s a very specific reason for asking a question like this. There’s a part of your brain called the reticular activating system.
One of the roles of your reticular activating system is to work like a radar, as it scans the world around it draws your attention to what you are thinking about. It doesn’t necessarily know whether what you’re thinking is good or bad or whether you’re thinking about things that you want to or not. All it knows is that you’re thinking about it and therefore it brings ‘it’ to your attention. This means that if someone is running the thought “I don’t want to feel anxious. I don’t want to have any more anxiety!” This in fact draws more evidence of your anxiety towards you due to still thinking about anxiety.
Think about what you do want to feel. Even with children and young people the typical answer is “I want to feel in control”. However, when you feel in control, you don’t really think about it. Control isn’t the feeling that young people ultimately want. What they really want is to feel happy, normal or confident. When a young person is feeling anxious, we could use a technique to help them feel confident instead, be at peace with themselves or to encourage acceptance of self. As a result of those feelings it causes them to be more in control. So, control comes as a result of feeling the way someone wants to feel. What we need to aim for is confidence/happy/calm, etc. to lead them to the behaviour of being in control later on.