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How I Manage My Anxiety: A Clinical Psychologist’s Perspective, Part II

Dr. Jessica LoPresti, PhD
WhiteFlag Chief Medical Officer
Anxiety is a tricky emotion and makes us think that we are incapable of facing it. Truth be told, facing anxiety is the only way through it!

The second strategy I use to manage my own anxiety: Acceptance.

I can hear you saying to yourself, “I don’t want to accept my anxiety, I want to get rid of it!”

Stick with me. Paradoxically, acceptance can be a path towards relief.

A common response to anxiety or stress is to attempt to control, suppress, and/or avoid these painful emotions. When we feel particularly overwhelmed with anxiety it can be common to seek out quick relief (e.g. substances, food). While very effective in the short term, these quick fixes can create longer-term challenges and are not necessarily sustainable.

Additionally, we might face internal struggles with our anxiety. I often liken these internal struggles to a game of “tug of war”. Imagine yourself on one end of the rope, your anxiety on the other end of the rope, and a constant battle. This battle is time-consuming, exhausting, and can get in the way of all of the other important and meaningful things you want to do in your life.

What would happen if you dropped the rope? How would things in your life change if you simply disengaged with the tug of war battle with your anxiety?

Acceptance involves 3 important things:
Embracing or welcoming your anxiety. Instead of battling with your anxiety, invite it in. I often describe this approach as putting your arm around your anxiety and allowing it to just BE. This approach dampens the intensity and duration of your anxiety and helps you to gain confidence that you can face it!
Utilizing Self Compassion. Yes, we are still talking about self-compassion. It is so important to be to yourself when you experience anxiety. You deserve kindness! Without it, your anxiety is in control.

Choosing how you respond to your anxiety. In the field of psychology, we discuss this choice as reflective vs. reflexive responding. Often times we respond to our anxiety by making quick, and sometimes desperate, attempts to make it go away. Acceptance can give us the space to choose how we would like to respond. Choose meaningful, values-driven responses helps you develop a sense of agency in the context of your anxiety. More on this in part 3! Stay-tuned!

You are strong enough to face your anxiety. You just have to give yourself a chance!


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