How to Turn Anxiety into Action
Anxiety can stop us in our tracks, and the idea of turning anxiety into action can seem impossible. Anxiety involves worry and fear. Together, these make a team of control-freaks that attempts to keep people from living their lives fully, from stepping forward confidently into the world. Anxiety prevents people from taking action. However, did you know that you can turn anxiety into action? Here’s a simple formula to turn your anxiety into action.
What Does It Mean to Turn Anxiety into Action?
Anxiety can be paralyzing, making it difficult to think or act. Fear and worry can make us withdraw inward, away from anxiety-provoking situations. Social anxiety can become so intense that we want to—and believe we need to—avoid people, places, and situations. Sometimes anxiety becomes so debilitating that it becomes avoidant personality disorder. Anxiety can be related to a specific person or circumstance. Social anxiety, for example, might make it difficult for someone to go to dinner with colleagues or become actively involved in a child’s school. Life then becomes limited, stifled. We can’t participate fully in life because anxiety has stopped us short.
When we turn anxiety into action, we begin to reclaim our lives. There are also times when anxiety isn’t so specific. We know we feel stressed and anxious, but we don’t really know why (When Anxiety Strikes Without A Cause). It can feel like we’re just whirling, moving erratically, unevenly, and rapidly like one of those ground spinner firecrackers. Turning anxiety into action means that we no longer bounce and spin in an unbalanced manner but instead get our bearings and move forward purposefully.
A Formula for Turning Anxiety into Action
When anxiety has become a roadblock that prevents you from traveling forward on your journey, there are things that you can do to take that anxiety and turn it into action. Anxiety likes to keep us trapped, and usually by the time we realized that anxiety has stopped our life progress, avoidance has become our comfort zone. Stepping out of the comfort zone can be, well, uncomfortable. Uncomfortable, yes, but also very possible. Try this three-step formula to turn anxiety into action: identify + analyze + create steps = ability to act.
- Identify your anxiety. Be specific. It’s hard to overcome an obstacle you can’t see. Sit quietly, breathe deeply, and be still. Then, you can listen to the racing thoughts in order to fully pinpoint them. Knowing what you’re facing is an important first step to turning anxiety into action.
- Analyze your anxiety. Anxiety, in part, is smoke and mirrors. Any type of anxiety disorder maintains its power through things like exaggeration. Anxiety gets deep into our brain and whispers cruel things, exaggerating our perceptions and thoughts. When you stare it down, test the reality of the anxious thoughts, and get rid of the irrelevant stuff, you reduce it to a manageable size and you’re left with more realistic thoughts to deal with.
- Create a simple plan with clear steps. When anxiety has shut us down, the idea of getting up and moving again can feel overwhelming. Once you’ve identified your specific anxiety and analyzed it to reject the parts of it that aren’t valid, you’re in a position to move forward and get back to living the life you want to live. Techniques from solution-focused therapy work well here. In creating a plan, think of what you want, where you are now in relationship to what you want, and what little steps you can take every day to work toward where you want to be.
Stopping you is part of what anxiety does. Happily, you don’t have to remain stuck and instead can move forward again. The simple formula, identify + analyze + create steps = ability to act, can help you turn anxiety into action and begin to live your life fully.
NCC, T. (2015, November 19). How to Turn Anxiety into Action, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/11/turn-anxiety-into-action
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC