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Five Solution-Focused Ways to Beat Anxiety

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine: Suppose that one night there is a miracle, and while you’re sleeping your anxiety disappears. How would you know that it was really gone? What would be different? What would you notice the very next morning that would tell you that this miracle has occurred. What about others? What would they notice?

Does the possibility of such a miracle seem ridiculously outlandish? Something that can’t happen in the real world? Perhaps surprisingly, it really can happen.

The concept of the miracle question comes to us from a research-based therapeutic approach known as solution-focused therapy. The premise is deceptively simple: when we change our focus from what is wrong to what is right, a shift will occur and we’ll begin to see beyond our anxiety. When we see beyond our anxiety, anxiety weakens.

To be sure, solution-focused therapy is not a Pollyanna approach. It doesn’t tell us that we can wish away our anxiety. It doesn’t advise that we transform into ostriches, burying our fuzzy heads in the sand. What it does tell us is that when we actively and intentionally think about solutions rather than being mired in problems, we can overcome what ails us even when what ails us is as debilitating as anxiety.


Solution-focused therapy offers practical ways you can focus on solutions rather than anxiety in order to regain control of your life.

1. Take the Miracle Question seriously.
That’s the starting point. Peek back at the questions above. Take time to fully ponder them and write out the answers. Think of them not as some supernatural miracle but as life goals.

2. Think of anxiety as an “it.”
Anxiety isn’t you. It’s just an inanimate thing external to you and unwelcome. When you remove it from your concept of “you,” you see the truth that it isn’t who you are. Instead, it’s an object that can be removed. You can take out the trash.

3. Look for positive exceptions.
Yeah, anxiety can feel pretty severe, all-encompassing, and debilitating. But take some time to ponder your life. Despite how it may feel, no one feels intense anxiety 100% of the time. When are those times that you don’t experience anxiety (or, at least, when is it a bit less intense)? Find patterns. What is going on (including the “who” and the “where” of it) when it’s better? What did you do differently during those times when anxiety was better? What would you need to do for this to happen again? Start to do more of what brings the exceptions. (These can be hard to identify, so be patient with yourself.)

4. Focus on new behaviors rather than merely stopping the old ones.
Rather than just saying you want to get rid of anxiety, concentrate on replacing it with something else. Why do you want to be free from anxiety? Answer the question thoroughly and intentionally live for those goals. It’s not enough to just get rid of anxiety. It needs to be replaced with something better.

5. Use scales.
Scaling is a common tool in solution-focused therapy. It’s a rating system that people use on a regular basis to assess where they are and help themselves move forward. Ask yourself: On a scale from one to ten (with ten being the most severe), how severe is my anxiety right now? Then, ask yourself what it would be like for you to move down the scale just one single number. Next, know that the movement is in your control. What can you do to move down that one step?

Solution-focused therapy helps you shift your focus away from your anxiety away from what is wrong to what is already right. Then you build on the “already rights” to make things even “righter.” It takes work, but that’s part of the process of reclaiming control over your life.

Connect with Tanya on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, and her website.

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of four critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges as well as a self-help book on acceptance and commitment therapy. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

12 thoughts on “Five Solution-Focused Ways to Beat Anxiety”

  1. Anxiety as emotional disorder indicates serious health problem, which one render more difficult personal, occupational and social daily functioning. To overcome this emotional pressure we undertake numerous psycho-social activities that are or aren’t under our control. These mechanism in ego-psychology are so-called defender mechanism, and they are out of our control. They indeed moderate our emotional turmoil through our daily psycho-social problems. But they aren’t fully sufficient to face in adequate way with numerous life social contradictions. Therefore it ought to use some intentional and goal-direction activity to soften and to improve our emotional turmoil, such is anxiety. Among them, your five suggestions as set of mental exercises offer great and welcomed help. By me, your recommendation to focus ourselves in ongoing activity than to be fixed on preliminary traumatic events exhibits exact and due solutions. Social life is dynamic and stressful experience with many happy and cheerful moments on the same time. Let’s use them as much as it is possible, particularly in stressful instants. On the other hand they can make use in our imagine, are free and accessible for anyone. It ought to be in good and positive volition to undertake some imaginative affirmative steps in order to release the mind and soul from bad and humble memories and feelings, as well. The benefits from this autogenic training would be of great and useful importance for our global welbeing and for our unavoidable anxiety.

    1. Hello Dr. Ferati,
      Behaviors and actions go a very long way toward alleviating anxiety and increasing mental health. Being able to act toward our values and goals is very empowering. I agree with your observation that social life has both stress and happy moments. Drawing on the good moments and memories can help balance the inevitable stressful, anxiety-provoking ones. And visualizing them is powerful. And I hadn’t thought of your great point before: taking positive action and visualizing the good as well as our goals are free and accessible. That makes them even better. As always, thank you for your input and conversation.

  2. I have severe anxiety when I wake up in the morning. It is very annoying. It takes about 2 or 3 hours for it to subside. I am anxious to some extent throughout the day but mornings are the worst. I am on several medications for anxiety. Nothing seems to help. I have always been a shy person and somewhat anxious. My severe anxiety started about the time my sister passed away in December 2015. I try to think positively and put the negative thoughts out of my mind. I also do deep breathing but it doesn’t seem to help. What are some things I can to so I can wake up without feeling anxious?

    1. Hello Pam,

      Increased anxiety in the morning isn’t uncommon. During the day, people are doing things that often take thoughts away from anxiety, at least partially. But in the morning, there aren’t many distractions. It’s significant that your severe anxiety began when your sister died less than six months ago. Anxiety can be related to loss and grief. Reaching out to a counselor or therapist can be incredibly helpful in processing everything you are dealing with. Additionally, these two articles might be helpful:

      When Grief Causes Anxiety — http://bit.ly/24QXuuz
      Anxiety Attacks in Grief: Tools for Coping — http://bit.ly/21mFAPr

  3. I using this therapy and i am very satisfied with them.Only one thing we should keep in our mind that,this therapy are not going to work overnight they need some time.We should keep patience for results.

    1. Hello Henreeta,
      Thank you for sharing your experience with this. And I’m glad you shared your wise insight. You are so right about being patient. There are many different approaches to treating and managing anxiety, each one takes time. Nothing works instantly, but treatments do indeed work. I’m happy to read that you’re making progress. Slow and steady wins the race! 🙂

    1. Hi Sue,
      It can be frustrating to try to find strategies to help yourself be calm. Are there things that you are doing or thinking in the morning/at night that you could implement during the day? If you find even small things and start working on them little by little, chances are you will find your anxiety diminish over time. It sure would be nice if there were a quick fix, wouldn’t it?! Thank you for reading and for leaving a comment!

  4. Thank you very much for the input. It makes sense and I plan to incorporate it in to my efforts to overcome my situation. I have a very strong sense of right and wrong. I feel as though I was raped. Something was taken from me that was obtrusive. In order for me to start putting this behind me, justice must be served. The person responsible for my condition needs to admit that she needs help too. I need to see this condition fulfilled so that she does not do it to someone else. I was her 4th husband. I just lost my wife of 42 yrs. and have a few health problems. To me this would be justice. In order to accomplish this I need legal advice. I want me back!

    1. Hello Steve,
      I’m glad that you find these strategies to be helpful. I find that they’re very practicable, do-able ways to approach difficulties and problems. I’m sorry to read that you are experiencing such a stressful time/situation. It’s good that you are looking for ways to deal with it. I hope these strategies are indeed helpful and that you find the legal advice you are looking for.

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