Mental Health Tip of the Day: A New Perspective On Anxiety
Do you know someone who experiences persistent and excessive anxiety that limits their growth and quality of life?
Our Anxious Perspective
Some believe the only way to overcome excessive worrying/anxiety is by shutting it off. Unfortunately, many people have a generally negative view of anxiety, which is a significant reason why so many Americans struggle at managing it. To illustrate how anxiety works, I will use an example from when we updated our security system in our home.
A New Perspective
When we moved into our current home, the security system needed to be updated to function correctly. When the alarm company came and installed the new equipment, they unknowingly set the alarm sensitivity too high.
Think of anxiety as your own internal alarm system. It is designed to alert you when there is a potential danger, which enables you to protect yourself or run to safety (fight or flight response). Notice we did not tell the alarm technician to disable the entire alarm system. We still wanted the alarm to alert us when there was a real danger, just as we want our own internal alarm to alert us when there is a real danger.
Fortunately for the majority of us, we are rarely ever in actual danger. If the cause of a hyper-sensitive internal alarm is not reality-based (i.e., when there is no real danger), then it is likely due to a pattern of irrational thinking. Irrational thinking usually includes: (1) over-estimates the likelihood of a negative outcome, and (2) over-estimates the impact that negative results will have on your life.
I think we have all had several times in our lives where we worried excessively about something, and it turned out not to be nearly as bad as we thought it would be. One thing that we know is that excessive worry can have several unintended negative consequences and place self-imposed limits on opportunities for self-growth and personal fulfillment, which can significantly decrease our quality of life.
As mental health professionals, we play the role of the security company technician. We will help you tweak the sensitivity of your internal alarm so that it still alerts you when there is a real danger, while also decreasing the false alarms that limit your growth and quality of life.