Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Leave Worry at the Door
Thursday, May 11 2017 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a relentless experience of anxiety and worry. Worry and anxiety are part of the human experience; there’s even a type of anxiety known as existential anxiety that we feel simply because we exist. However, the anxiety and worry of GAD go far beyond ordinary anxiety. Regardless of the type of anxiety you experience, even if it’s a diagnosable disorder such as GAD, you can find peace as you learn to leave worry at the door.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Has Baggage
Regardless of the type of anxiety experienced, anxiety can be miserable. Generalized anxiety disorder involves excessive and almost uncontrollable worry about multiple things in one’s life. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), GAD also involves three or more of these symptoms:
- A sense of restlessness or being on edge
- Becoming fatigued easily
- Difficulty concentrating, mind going blank
- Sleep problems
To begin to let go of anxiety and reduce GAD, it’s important to let go of all of the baggage that comes with it. It’s a process that starts with leaving your worry at the door.
Leave Worry at the Door to Let Go of Generalized Anxiety
Anxiety, whether or not it’s generalized anxiety disorder, hovers around us and is reluctant to let go. Wherever we go, there is anxiety. When anxiety is omnipresent, we overthink things, ruminate over worries, find new worries and “what-ifs,” experience a rollercoaster of emotions, and feel anxiety’s physical symptoms. An important first step in getting rid of anxiety is leaving worry at the door.
In Asian and some Scandinavian cultures, it’s customary to remove one’s shoes before entering a home. Part of the reason is sanitary, part relates to tradition and culture, and part is symbolic. When someone removes his shoes at the door, he is preparing to enter a private world that is separate from the outside. It would be wrong to traipse through a home dragging the proverbial muck from the outside through the sacred space within. The removing of shoes shifts the mind away from the stresses and pressures of the outside world and into the calmer inner sanctuary.
Think of anxiety as your dirty shoes. Leaving them at the door will help you enter into a space where your anxiety is significantly reduced.
Whenever you return to your home, remove your shoes. If you already do so, that’s great. Start to become intentional about it. Tell yourself that you’re removing your shoes and leaving anxiety at the door.
If you rarely leave your home (if, for example, you live with agoraphobia or avoidant personality disorder), you can still leave anxiety at a door. Create a sanctuary space within your home and enter that room often, leaving your anxiety at that door.
When your worries surface, as they will quite often at first, remind them gently but firmly that you have left them at the door and will pick them up again when you leave. (With GAD, the act of not worrying can actually increase anxiety. Therefore, if you reassure your worries that you’ll come back later, you’ll be better able to put them aside for now.) You are training your mind to honor an anxiety-free zone.
The simple steps of leaving your worries at the door and actively reminding yourself that your worry isn’t where you are is a process that will gradually help you reduce generalized anxiety disorder and other anxiety. Eventually, you’ll start to go barefoot.
Source: American Psychological Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychological Association.