Saturday, February 18, 2012

Disrupting Anxiety

Meet Lisa. She’s about to have a job interview, and she’s worried. She finds it puzzling, because she’s done the kind of work she’s about to be interviewed for in the past, and she knows how to do it well, but she’s experiencing anxiety, nonetheless. Can her anxiety be stopped? Let’s first see what anxiety feels like.
Natural Occurrence of Anxiety
Imagine yourself about to have an important job interview. Do you feel worried? If you don’t, feel free to think of any situation from your past in which you experienced anxiety. As you’re imagining yourself in an anxiety-provoking situation, ask yourself: How do I know that what I am experiencing is anxiety? I want you to turn your attention to the sensations that appear in your upper abdomen. If you’re unclear what I mean, then relax, lean back in your chair, and think about something pleasant. Then—while staying as motionless as you can—recall the same anxiety-inducing situation that you thought about a minute or so ago. Do you feel how the muscles in your solar plexus tense up and squeeze your middle torso, causing a sensation of weakness appear in your upper abdomen? It seems that the area of your solar plexus doesn’t support your upper body as well as it used to. Moments after, you should begin experiencing mild shaking, which can quickly spread to your hands and throat, making your voice weaker and trembling. These are the primary sensations that your mind interprets as experiencing anxiety. Your instinctive impulse to control your worry is to lean forward, thus pressing on your upper abdomen with your upper body. It seems to work for a short while, until the trembling starts to seep through the pressure and spreading again.

Interfering in Anxiety’s Formation  

You can interfere in anxiety’s formation on any stage, but interfering in it on the earliest stage possible requires only a minimal effort. Again, relax. Lean back in your chair and think about something pleasant. Then—while staying as motionless as you can—recall the same anxiety-provoking situation that you thought about in the previous exercise. At the very beginning of the appearance of your emotional reaction, you’ll feel the urge to tighten up the muscles of your upper abdomen—do not let your body and mind do it. Continue staying absolutely still during that impulse, and do not let the tension in the muscles in your upper abdomen change even a tiny bit. The urge to tense up your muscles lasts only for about a second, but it will come back later again, in a few minutes, and you need to be ready for it. On the bright side, once you become aware of how the approaching anxiety feels, you’ll recognize it immediately. But for now, run as many anxiety-inducing situations in your mind as you can, and do not let those situations trigger your emotional response. After a couple of months of such training, you’ll come to the point when you get to choose whether you wish to experience anxiety or disrupt its formation.  

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