I have often talked about the importance of stopping paying attention to anxiety mentations.
But I know from my 25 years of clinical work that many people don’t realise that this means not only stopping an internal dialogue with themselves about their anxiety (like ‘OMG! I might panic if I do that’) but also stopping any dialogue with other people about their anxiety.
So, to be clear, once you decide to embark upon quitting paying attention to your anxiety then that means that when others ask you how you are going you don’t respond with ‘Oh, not bad, but I’ve been a bit anxious lately’ or ‘I don’t think I could take that job – it might exacerbate my anxiety’.
Instead, no matter how you feel (which should not matter anyway because you’re not paying your anxiety-related ‘feelings’ any attention whatsoever) you say ‘great, thank you’ and then discuss constructive things you have been up to if probed any further.
It doesn’t matter how unsure you feel or if you start shaking, sweating, blushing or your pulse races because you’re not paying any attention to these physiological sensations either. You just keep right on engaging in conversation in a constructive way – no differently to how someone would behave if they had not a shred of anxiety.
If you start discussing the ins and outs of your anxiety with others you will be reactivating and consolidating the very neural pathways that you wish to eliminate. So, don’t do it. Resist the urge for that bit of reassurance you would otherwise hope to gain from others. It’s just not worth it.
Remember though, that others might probe excessively about your anxiety because the relationship has been based upon you talking about it in the past. Once you are no longer in the victim-role there may be a temporary lull in the relationship while you both find other things to talk about.
So be ready for this. Even if you are asked specifically about your anxiety, just say ‘yeah, going really well thanks’ and then move onto something constructive you have been doing. You can then follow up with, ‘and what about you? What have you been up to lately?’ With partners or very close friendships, let them know in advance that there will be zero discussion about any anxiety going forward.