Have you noticed that when people tell you “relax” or “calm down” you only feel more agitated and may even feel like flipping them off? Yet we usually give ourselves the same advice as we try to quiet the thoughts in our head. How do we address our anxiety without making it worse?
In the past several months I have asked my clients to close their eyes and notice how it feels when I say these three words: relax, relaxing, relaxed. Then I repeat those same words in reverse order and ask which word felt the best. Without fail, they chose either “relaxing” or “relaxed.”
Words and phrases like “relax,” “chill out” and “calm down” are commands, which only create more tension. Letting go of anxiety is a process, so using process words and phrases are more effective in reducing anxious thoughts.
So next time you are feeling stressed, try saying or thinking phrases like “letting go” or “releasing.” Using states of being, like “peaceful” or “loose” can be helpful too.
I find it can be helpful to keep a visual reminder of process words where I can see it throughout the day. Give it a try by downloading this PDF sample visual reminder card from my new Melt Worry & Relax Card Deck.
Using process words is only one way of addressing the fact that fighting anxiety fuels it. Get 56 useful and effective anti-anxiety strategies and solutions for letting go of worry and anxiety in my Melt Worry & Relax Card Deck.
This post was contributed by Dr. Jennifer L. Abel. Abel specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders and is a worry management expert. A respected clinician and author whose clinical practice is located in St. Louis, MO, Abel is an international speaker who trains other professionals to treat generalized anxiety disorder (the worry disorder) and other anxiety disorders. Dr. Abel’s books Active Relaxation and Resistant Anxiety, Worry & Panic receive high praise from experts in the field and readers alike.