How You’re Fueling Your Own Anxiety And How to Fix It

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?

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.”

…Why?

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.

Download a Free Process Words Reminder Card


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.

The Floating Technique: For anxiety and panic disorder

The floating technique includes four steps and can be used with both adults and children struggling with anxiety and panic disorder. Learn more in this short video with Paul Foxman, Ph.D.

When working with clients facing panic disorders, treatment includes education, reassurance, relaxation and floating. But what is floating?

“Floating builds on acceptance and involves moving through the sensations of anxiety without offering tense resistance, as one would when floating on gently, undulating water.” – Claire Weekes, M.D.

The floating technique includes four steps and can be used with both adults and children struggling with anxiety and panic disorder. Learn more in this short video with Paul Foxman, Ph.D.


Paul Foxman, Ph.D., is founder and director of the Center for Anxiety Disorders, a private practice and therapist training center in Burlington, Vermont. He has over 30 years of professional experience in a variety of settings, including hospitals, community mental health centers, graduate schools in psychology and private practice. Dr. Foxman is the author of Dancing with Fear (2007) and The Worried Child (2004), as well as other publications on the topic of anxiety, including a co-authored casebook, Conquering Panic and Anxiety Disorders (2003).


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Better-But-Believable Thoughts: An alternative to cognitive therapy

If you have a client with chronic worry, you’ve likely tried cognitive therapy. But cognitive therapy is time-consuming and complex. For a simple, quick way to nip worry in the bud, Jennifer Abel, Ph.D., suggests B3s.

For most of us, a small amount of worry can spur us into action and help us solve a problem. But for others, worrying can become a problem. For those that are pre-occupied with worry, it can take an extensive toll on their body.

If you have a client with chronic worry, you’ve likely tried cognitive therapy on some level. Collaborating with the client to identify thought styles, such as catastrophizing, filtering, shoulds, and mind-reading, and replacing these with alternative positive thoughts has been proven effective for generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. However, these methods are time-consuming and complex.

First, the client is expected to identify the thought style they are experiencing. Next, the client must construct a new thought based on a list of suggestions. It’s a laborious process that is also flawed when the commonly used suggestion to “think positive” is added in.

According to Jennifer Abel, Ph.D., the bottom line is that if the person doesn’t really believe that the thought is true, it’s going to be useless. Abel has created a new, simpler strategy to try with your clients: Better-but-Believable thoughts, or B3s.

Check out this clip from 101 Practical Strategies for the Treatment of GAD, Panic, OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, Phobias and Insomnia to see B3s in action. In this example, you’ll learn how to stop a mother’s worry about her son riding his bike using Better-but-Believable thoughts.



We want to know… What do you think about Better-but-Believable thoughts?
Tell us in the comments below!


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This blog is based on the seminar 101 Practical Strategies for the Treatment of GAD, Panic, OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, Phobias and Insomnia presented by Jennifer Abel, Ph.D.