By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
What are your fears teaching you?
Are you someone who suffers from high anxiety? Have you learned the lessons that your anxiety is trying to teach you? Anxiety can be a kind of bully, trying to scare you away from anything new and keeping you from the parts of life that might be beneficial. Or anxiety can become a good teacher and help you learn life lessons.
Below is the list of some lessons that anxiety might be able to teach you and ways that you could develop those lessons.
Just because it scares you does not make it dangerous.
A well-functioning anxiety system helps you identify risks and warns you of danger. Some people’s anxiety system is turned up way too high. Overly sensitive anxiety systems give off warning sounds and flashing lights even when the danger is minimal.
An important lesson you should learn from your experiences with anxiety is that not everything that makes you fearful or scares you is in fact, that dangerous. Learn that your anxiety is a source of information, not an absolute life ruler.
It is OK to feel scared.
Some people believe they should never feel scared. One of the lessons about anxiety it is important to learn is that it is possible to feel scared and still have nothing bad happened. Let anxiety teach you this lesson. Just because you’re scared does not mean that anything terrible or awful will necessarily happen to you
It is OK to feel what you feel.
Are you one of those people who was taught that you shouldn’t feel whatever it is that you are feeling? A valuable lesson that anxiety and many of our other feelings has to teach us is that humans use feelings as a source of information. Information is neither good nor bad in and of itself. Was is important is for you to feel what you’re feeling, decide what that means, and then decide what you wanted to do with that information.
Feelings can be your friends.
Feelings are not automatically your enemies. They can be your friends. Sometimes anxiety and fear are friends warning you of danger. What you need to decide is how real and how important that danger it is. Every so often the danger is very real and very imminent. During those times you will need to do something about it. Other times your anxiety is detecting something new and unfamiliar and you’ll need to learn how you are going to respond to that new and novel situation.
Walking towards fear makes it shrink.
Fear is a natural-born bully. Fear wants to have its way. The more you give in to your fear the larger the fear grows. Many things that look scary and are fearful at first sight becomes far less scary as you begin to do them.
If you walk towards something that scares you, what you will often find is that it is far scarier from a distance than once you get up close.
The first time is always the scariest.
Many people are afraid of something new that they’ve never experienced, but once they’ve tried it for that very first time that may discover that they enjoy it. Don’t let your fears and your anxieties keep you from trying something that might turn out to be a great deal of fun.
Scary experiences create lasting memories.
Despite the fact that many people avoid things that make them anxious or scare them, most of us are also fascinated by the scary. Scary movies draw large audiences. Haunted houses are perennial Halloween favorites.
Because of the heightened level of hormones in the body during scary events the brain thinks that it is important to remember these times. In thinking about the times that some event made you anxious it is important to remember the times that despite the anxiety those things turned out very well.
You can’t be calm and scared at the same time.
Ever notice when there’s a loud noise everyone turns to look at it and ignores everything else that is happening? Anxiety and fear are like that. They distract your attention from what else is going on at the same time.
One way of reducing anxieties impact on you is to learn ways to calm yourself. Stress reduction techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation can all be very helpful in reducing your anxiety. What you will quickly learn, if you try these techniques, is that it’s not possible to be calm, relaxed and scared at the very same time.
Learn to make this fundamental rule of emotions work for you. Opposite sets of emotions don’t like to live together. It’s difficult to laugh when you are sad. People don’t seem to be able to be both excited and relaxed at the same time. If you have found that your anxiety has gotten out of control, a quick way to reduce that anxiety if is to learn ways to self-soothe and calm yourself.
The more skills you have the more you can handle.
In all aspects of life, it is important to develop a good set of skills. While initially, it may be uncomfortable to work with strong emotions such as anxiety, the more you do this work the better you get at it. Repeatedly putting yourself in situations that create a small amount of anxiety, which you discover you are able to handle, can result in increasing your ability to handle increasingly difficult anxiety-provoking situations.
Whenever the size of your comfort zone, if you spend too much time cramped inside it, that comfort zone will prevent your personal growth. Gradually work on stretching out that comfort zone. Before long you will have the skills to handle situations they used to seem impossible.
When you do good self-care less overwhelms you.
Another lesson than anxiety will teach you is the importance of good self-care. With poor self-care, it’s easy to get stressed out and have everything overwhelmed you. When you concentrate on taking good care of yourself you will be able to handle situations that you never thought possible.
You will handle most things better than you thought you would.
It’s normal to be very scared before something that you have never experienced. What surprises so many of us is how often we are able to handle far more than we ever believed possible. Anxiety teaches you that you are capable of much more than you would have believed had you not been in those anxiety-provoking situations.
Most of the things we worry about turn out better than we thought.
Many people discover that the majority of things they have worried about turn out better than they expected. It is a human failing to expect the worst. Let your anxiety teach you that many good things can happen.
You almost always have more options than you think.
One bad habit that makes anxiety far worse than it needs to be is artificially limiting your options. Often we only see a couple of alternatives. Make sure that you look for other options. People will tell themselves they have to get something done by a deadline or they’re going to lose their job. Only seeing those two options results in not making use of the many more options that might have resulted in a better outcome. Besides not finishing the report or getting fired, you may also have the options of discussing the deadline with your boss or requesting additional help in completing the project on time.
If you make anxiety your friend you may find that it’s a wonderful teacher.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.