When I reflect back on what enables people to be courageous in this way, a couple of key points spring to mind.
They don’t criticize themselves for being anxious. Instead they have an attitude of “Here’s my anxiety playing up again, I need to keep going.” This prevents them from having the sense of getting anxious about being anxious and instead fosters a kind of self acceptance which is much more healthy than self blame.
They have a plan on what to do when anxiety strikes. The plan is usually simple It may be something like reminding themselves of a time they felt strong and confident, or doing slow paced breathing or calling a really supportive friend. The options are far wider than we often realise. The secret is not to leave it until we are having a panic attack to try and think about what to do. There is nothing like a panic attack to freeze up our ability to think clearly. Instead these people have thought through what they want to do and how they are going to cope ahead of time.
They find ways to bring humour into the anxiety triggering situation. Anxiety forces us into taking ourselves way too seriously. But humour is one of the key ways of undermining anxiety and panic. This is because it changes the way our brain processes the fear that underlies anxiety and the desire to run as far and as fast as our panic will allow us. Humour also gives us some emotional distance. The best of this is that it can be as simple as mentally teasing ourselves about our anxiety in our own mind.
They don’t only want to cope at the time of being anxious. They are also planning ways to become less anxious and to develop more inner resilience. There are lots of ways this can be achieved.
I’m sure there are lots of other points as well, and we will be exploring many of these points in coming weeks. Check back to find out more, as well as many of the other topics we will be covering in future blogs.