I have seen a lot of anxiety in my office lately. It seems that the holiday season really revs up anxiety for many. All of the social gatherings, visits with difficult relatives, shopping, and expenses come together into a perfect storm of anxiety and stress. Sometimes the best way to understand an unhelpful pattern is to identify it clearly. In that spirit, I’ll give you these sure ingredients that together make a swarming, swirling, anxiety brew:
- Take every “what if” that pops into your head very seriously. Think it through until you consider EVERY way something could go wrong.
- Never decide a plan of action for anything. In fact, avoid ALL problem solving.
- Believe that every physical sensation of anxiety is actually a health crisis.
- Avoid, at all costs, focusing on the present moment.
- Don’t get an assessment or professional help for unremitting anxiety.
How many of these are daily practices for you? Many of us in the field of treating anxiety are thinking about attention training. These “ingredients” for anxiety are about where we focus our attention! And the good news is that attentional focus is changeable! Start noticing when your attention drifts to the future, and then gently invite yourself back to the present and see what happens.
Are you willing to take a fresh look at the role of anxiety in your life? What are your best practices for focusing your attention on the present?
Adrian Wells, PhD, is doing writing and research in the area of attention training and the treatment of anxiety disorders.