Anxiety Management Course: Session 6
Welcome to the final session of the course. Paddy will lead you through the session and in between the videos is the information from the course booklet.
How was your week?
If your goal felt like it was too much too soon then you can revise your goal or create a series of mini SMART goals.
Achieving manageable steps and moving forward is what’s most important. This will build your confidence and help your motivation which will all help to manage anxiety. There are three other aspects of anxiety we’ll also look at: avoidance, practice and safety behaviours.
The Problem with Avoidance
When we leave a situation or choose not to do certain things because they make us feel anxious, we may come to think that this is the best way to manage anxiety.
When we’re in a busy place for example and suddenly feel some of those symptoms; heart pounding, breathing fast and shallow and we think, Oh no, I’m getting anxious. I need to get out of here. And we leave as quickly as possible. Then once away from the situation we think, Thank goodness for that. I feel better now.
But here’s the problem. Every time we do that we reinforce this message to ourselves: Whenever I’m in a busy place I will get anxious and should leave as quickly as possible.
And the danger is we start to avoid doing more and more activities. We feel a nice sense of relief when we’ve decided not to go to a social event or go shopping in the busy parts of the day, but what we’re doing is avoiding anxiety rather than managing it.
But look what happens if we stay where we are and manage the anxiety.
Person A started to feel anxious in their busy supermarket and assumed the feelings would get worse and worse so they decided to leave.
Person B felt anxious in their busy town centre but they said to themselves, I’m feeling a bit anxious so I’ll do my breathing exercise and it will pass. And it did pass and they were able to finish their shopping and celebrate managing their anxiety by not avoiding it.
Once we start to tackle our avoidance habit, not only do we feel a sense of being able to cope with the things we need to do, we can also think about taking a step or two outside our comfort zone to do the things we used to enjoy or to try new things.
And it doesn’t matter how small each step is, it’s all progress.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Just as it’s important to celebrate when you’ve achieved one of your goals, it’s equally important to repeat that success to combat the anxiety. Each time we repeat an activity we feel anxious about, the anxiety decreases and our confidence increases until eventually it just becomes normal.
Example: Margie joins the local community choir with the support of her friend who is already a member.
About ‘safety behaviours’
The first time Margie went to a choir session she said to her friend…
And she made sure she had her lucky charm in her bag, some tablets for an upset stomach because she was worried she might feel sick, and a crystal that she always carried with her because another friend had said it would help to calm her.
All these things can fall under the title of safety behaviours if we’re using them to try to manage anxiety.
If we wanted to sit close to a door because we had to leave early or knew we’d have to take a phone call that would be different. We wouldn’t be doing it out of a fear that we wouldn’t be able to cope in the situation.
Using these things is understandable but if we continue to use them we’ll never learn and accept that we can manage anxiety without any props.
One evening, after Margie had been a member of the choir for a couple of months, she forgot her bag…and all the things that she believed she needed to stop her feeling anxious. When she noticed, she felt a moment of anxiety in her stomach, but then realised…
She also realised that she hadn’t stayed near the door for weeks.
A few months later…
Avoidance gives us short term relief from anxiety but causes our world to shrink if we keep using it as a strategy.
We need to tackle our habit of avoiding things to learn that we can cope.
Once we have succeeded in achieving a goal we need to keep practising it.
Suggestions going forward
Keep your breathing practice going. It will eventually become an automatic habit.
If you have a setback, try to see it as just that rather than a permanent failure. Keep trying and you’ll get there eventually.
Always celebrate progress even if it’s just silently telling yourself, ‘Well done!
We hope that whatever you’ve taken from this course will continue to help you in managing anxiety.
As with any new skill, the more you practise the techniques you’ve learned the better you’ll get until eventually they will become part of your daily routine.
Thank you for taking part in the course.
Facilitated by Paddy Morton
Cartoons by Tracy Aston