What if… my anxiety comes back?!!!

I find in my clinical work that when people get over their anxiety by stopping paying it any attention there is almost always a period a few weeks later where a scary thought threatens to derail their progress.

It usually goes like this.  ‘Wow, I can’t believe how great I feel since I stopped paying any attention to my anxiety – I’ve had no anxiety for weeks … OMG!  Wouldn’t it be awful if it all came back again!!  I couldn’t bear it!’

At this point people can become highly alarmed and start to hyper-vigilantly observe themselves for any possible signs of their anxiety returning. 

They maybe start monitoring their pulse or breathing (looking for even slight increases) or notice if they have any feelings of dread or panic.  They might examine their thoughts or mental images to see if any are a bit on the ‘anxious’ side.

Sadly, re-focussing on anxiety consolidates it in the brain and makes it easier to retrieve.  Before they know it, their anxiety is back again with a vengeance!

Instead, be aware that the initial OMG! type-of-thought just reflects the normal human capacity to think laterally and with complexity.  When we have one thought, we easily then have similar, related or opposite thoughts, especially if we already had a well-established brain habit devoted to anxiety rumination. 

All you need to do is be aware this might happen and then simply slide the ‘OMG! What if …. my anxiety comes back type-of-thought into your periphery and out of your focussed attention, giving it zero airplay time.  Make it clear that you’re certainly not going to fall for that old trick!  Then, engage in a constructive activity and keep enjoying an anxiety-free life!