Shelley J Whitehead

5 Steps for addressing anxiety

10 October, 2022

How anxiety can be helpful

Anxiety is often maligned as a ‘bad’ emotion and one that should either be ushered away or swept under the carpet. I believe, however, that all emotions have value and meaning and that if we allow them to work their magic, they will bring us great gifts. Anxiety brings the gift of getting prepared for what lies ahead. It is an indicator that something on the horizon is perhaps amiss or needs our attention and it helps us focus our energies on leaning in to solutions. All of the bodily sensations associated with anxiety are those that put us into a heightened state of arousal, as our body gets ready for doing something proactive.

Anxiety can be interpreted as a call to action

So if we interpret anxiety as a signal that we need to take action, we can give time and attention to a positive ‘response’ to it rather than just staying stuck in the uncomfortableness of the ‘sensation’.

5 steps for addressing anxiety

When you find yourself recognising the feeling of anxiety in your body, there are five steps I recommend you work through, in order, to embrace anxiety as a friend and benefit from the gifts it can bring:

  1. First of all, name the feeling as anxiety. Remember that this emotion is a friendly messenger. It is not ‘part of you’ but is a visiting emotion, helping you focus on what you need.
  2. It might feel uncomfortable, but take ten minutes to sit with it and ‘tune in’ to work out what it is you are feeling anxious about. Naming the source of the anxiety will help you embrace the gift of focus that this emotion is bringing you.
  3. Most emotional pain we experience is brought about by either unmet needs and deepest longings or by the negative story we are telling ourselves about the needs or longings. Ask yourself two questions about the source of the anxiety:
    (i) am I able to identify a need ahead of me that I don’t yet feel ready to address?
    (ii) are there any negative stories I am telling myself that might make me feel less capable or less prepared for what lies ahead?
  4. Then ask yourself: of the unmet needs or negative stories I have identified, what is in my power to change? Those are the areas you need to focus on.
  5. Write out a list of a few action steps you can take, right now, to start to move towards a solution.

Sometimes this process alone will be helpful to soothe the feelings of anxiety, as you allow the emotion to surface and you acknowledge it to yourself. If you find that you are not getting any relief and are going round in circles in your head or tipping over into a state of overwhelm, you may find it helpful to seek the support of a trusted friend or a therapist or coach who can help you work out a way forwards. I’m here for you if you need me. You can always contact me if you feel that you need support.

Shelley J Whitehead
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