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

Dr. Jessica LoPresti, PhD
WhiteFlag Chief Medical Officer
Building a life worth living is the key to mental health and wellness.

The third strategy I use to manage my own anxiety: Valued Living.

First things first, let’s clarify what I mean by the term, “values." I am not referring to the morals that you may have learned from primary caregivers or religious affiliations. While those things are extremely important, valued living in the context of mental health and wellness is different.

Valued living entails building a life that is meaningful. Building a life that is focused on the people, places, experiences, activities, and connections that nourish you. Values are different from goals. Our goals involve some sort of endpoint. Values are our compass and focus on the type of person we want to be on our journey.

Valued living involves 3 important things:

1. Values Clarification. In order to build a life that we value, we must first clarify our values! This process is important, and can be painful. It is challenging to realize the many ways that our anxiety and stress can separate us from what is most meaningful to us. Let’s start here. Ask yourself two questions.
What is most meaningful to me (e.g. family, friends, education, community, work,
wellness)? You don’t have to choose just one!

What are the ways that anxiety or stress have interfered with your engagement
with the things, people, experiences that are most meaningful to you?

2. Utilizing Self Compassion, AGAIN! It can be emotionally painful to recognize the distance between you and the things that you value most in life. Take a deep breath, this pain is not the endpoint. Give yourself the kindness you deserve as you embark on building, or rebuilding, the life that you value.

3. Valued Action. Here is the good news: You can choose to engage in behaviors that are in line with the type of person you want to be in any moment. AND, engaging in values-consistent behavior is directly linked to less anxiety and stress. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. Value action is about the present. What can you do NOW, in this moment to live in line with your values.

I want to provide a few examples to get you started:

Value: You might have a value of being a supportive friend or family member.
Valued Action: Pick up to the phone to call, text, email a friend to check in. Send a card with a nice note. Offer to support someone in a way that they need.

Value: You might have a value of being an active member of your community.
Valued Action: Volunteer at a local community event. Make a donation to support your community. Support a community member in the work they’re doing in any way you can.

Value: You might have a value of living a healthy lifestyle
Valued Action: Take the stairs instead of the elevator if you’re able. Make a healthy meal for yourself. Get outside for fresh air at lunchtime today.

Think about what you can do in THIS moment, to engage in a behavior that is in line with your values.

Start small. Be consistent. Remind yourself to be in the present.


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