Anxiety is a treacherous companion. It is a master at spinning a yarn from the smallest of threads. It tells us stories designed to frighten us in the name of “protecting” us. If we believe such stories, we may start building walls of protection for ourselves. When we start to limit ourselves to manage anxiety or reduce exposure to things we fear, we start to limit our engagement in life.
The fear of failure or judgment is powerful. The fear of physical and/or emotional discomfort and pain is equally as powerful. These anxiety-based fears may drive the protective behavior and lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure through inaction and avoidance. We are putting up walls between us and the things that cause us anxiety and fear.
When Walls Of Protection Become A Prison
We might start avoiding certain social situations, certain people, places, or difficult conversations. The more we do this, the closer the walls of protection move towards us. They shrink the space within which we live comfortably or freely. The walls may or may not protect us from things we fear. The things we fear may or may not be real. Regardless, the walls become a prison — isolating us from the outside world.
Reverse the trend…. getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
We need to push ourselves into the place where we feel uncomfortable to reverse this process. We see that we can do things that are difficult for us and be okay. As we take such steps, we start to move these walls out and give ourselves a larger space where we can exist freely without anxiety. But how is this accomplished when we feel so anxious?
How To Tear Down Anxiety’s Walls of Protection
- Identify the core belief driving the anxiety or avoidance. Example – if someone really get to know me they will realize I do not know what I am doing.
- Step back and analyze the veracity of this belief. Are you really incompetent or are you just minimizing your accomplishments? Seeing the actions of others through rose colored glasses?
- Find the areas of “low hanging fruit” to work on this fear/anxiety. Where can you work on this more easily? In a personal relationship? At work? At the corner store?
- Step in there. When you notice you are pulling back, avoiding the discomfort or censoring yourself take note and lean in if you can.
You can use anxiety in your favor. Anxiety is normal and can be quite helpful when we are informed by it and not controlled by it. Anxiety can serve a positive role if you let it:
- Help you prepare: You have something to do and you feel nervous about it. Anxiety provokes you to be diligent in your preparation in order to avoid the worst-case scenarios in your head. Building your inner strength in such situations is helpful to tap into when a larger crisis hits. It also reminds us to engage in activities that help us manage our stress: exercise, meditation, healthier eating, social connection, gratitude and acts of service.
- Motivates you: Possible negative consequences can be quite motivating. Ideally we motivate ourselves by what we can gain through our actions but sometime loss avoidance can be a powerful motivator.
- Enhance your concentration and focus: When anxiety strikes, you tend to focus like a laser on what you feel needs to be done. As long as you actively engage in self-care that helps prevent anxiety from crossing the debilitation threshold. This inner focus is a valuable skill when applied to other aspects of your life. In turn, anxiety can help you concentrate on getting the help you need.
- Learn how to talk back to your inner monologue: Anxiety would talk to you all day long if you let it. As noted right at the start, it loves to tell you lies. Well, once you note its rants and tangents without self-judgment or criticism, you have swung the power dynamic back into your favor. You are starting to move it to the periphery of your internal world instead of it being the central dominate voice.
Talk to a Professional
Therapy will help you in this process by helping you understand the underlying thoughts and beliefs that are driving this process. Your therapist will support you in stepping outside your comfort zone. Pushing yourself and becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable is the way you expand your comfort zone and live more freely. This can be a powerful path to help reverse this self-limiting trend of behavior and thinking.
If anxiety has you dwelling inside a self-constructed fortress, let’s talk. I’d love to help strike a healthy and productive balance in your life. Together, we can help you reclaim your autonomy and independence help you engage your life the way you deserve.
Do you have any questions or would like help with managing expectations? Please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation.
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