Often the first step in overcoming anxiety is creating a new ‘usually.’ …
Overcoming anxiety is not the result of 1 big thing done once. It’s the result of several small things done again and again. Here is something that will help.
If you prefer to read, rather than to watch, you’ll find a transcription below. This is an automatically generated transcript so please excuse any errors.
Hi, today we’re going to look at something very subtle, something very small. And it might be that you think this is so small that it’s not worth bothering about. But actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
And the small thing that we’re talking about today is how we describe things to ourselves how we describe the world to ourselves.
Here’s a very common thing that I hear from my clients. After we’ve been working together for a couple of weeks, I’ll ask them something like, how are things been going, and they’ll say something like, good, I had to meet some new people this week, and I was fine. And I’m usually really anxious about that. Or they’ll say I was fine. And I’m normally really anxious about that. Or maybe they’ll say I was fine. And I’m always really anxious about that. And the only difference is one word. And that word is usually normally always, because those words are very interchangeable.
Now, this doesn’t just have to be about meeting new people, either. It’s about some situation that went well, when they were not expecting it to. If I didn’t challenge what they just said, then they’d be undoing all of the good work, they’ve been doing all the progress that they’ve been making.
Now imagine that there are two boxes inside your brain. And let’s use these boxes here to represent that. One of them is labeled things that used to happen, and the other is labeled things that still happen. Now, there was probably a time when you fell over and grazed your knee, and you would have gone crying to your mom. Now that thing now lives in the box of things that used to happen. So now if you have to fall over and graze your knee, you remember crying, and your brain says which box is that in? And it’s in the box of things that used to happen, so you don’t cry about it.
Back to our example, if you have to meet new people, your brain might think about getting anxious, because it remembers that it’s done that in the past. So then it says which box is that in? And if it’s in the box of things that still happen, then you’ll get anxious about it. If it’s in the box of things that used to happen, then you find that you don’t get anxious about it.
So the question becomes, how do things get into these boxes. And very simply, it’s down to the way that we talk about things. If you say, I usually get anxious, when I meet new people, I always get anxious, or I normally get anxious, then it will go into this still happens box, because normally usually an always thinks they still happen. So that means that you’ve done all this good work about not getting anxious, then as soon as you say are you forget anxious when I meet new people, you put that label back into the box of things that still happen, and all the good work has been undone.
So the antidote is very simple. Instead of saying usually always, or normally, you say are used to. And it’s that simple. I used to get anxious when I meet new people. And then feeling anxious when you meet new people goes into that box of things that used to happen. So next time you meet new people, and your brain thinks about getting anxious, it looks in this box and sees that loosen the things that used to happen box, and it means that you don’t get anxious anymore about it.
So is it really as simple as that? Well, this isn’t a magic wand and changing those words won’t change your life forever. But this is about creating good habits, saying I used to get anxious is so much better than saying I always normally or I usually get anxious. So it’s not a magic switch switch. But I can tell you from years of experience of working with hundreds of people, that those people who create a habit of saying use do will get over their anxiety faster than those who say usually always or normally.
So very simply listen out for yourself saying usually normally always and change those words to be I used to and you know, it doesn’t even need to be true yet. I do this with my clients and as soon as they say I get anxious, I interrupt them and I say I used to get anxious, and then they repeat it and very soon it begins to become a habit. So yes, this is a very small thing.
But overcoming anxiety is not one big thing that you do once. It’s lots of little things done over and over again.