Tools to Lessen Anxiety Part One

AnxietyBoth Cody and I experience a lot of anxiety. Oftentimes, it is just a feeling and we have a difficult time pinpointing exactly where the feeling originates. We experience anxiety psychologically through our thought processes (immediately going to the worst-case scenario in every situation), but we also experience it physically (nausea, shaking, headaches, and genuine physical fear that ignites our fight-or-flight response). We have both been doing a lot of work trying to identify where our anxious feelings are coming from. I know that the best way to help Cody incorporate healthy coping skills into his life is to model them for him, so as I learn new skills and ways of coping with anxiety, I try to model them for him to see if they have a positive effect. Our whole life has become a giant experiment where we try different things and decide if they have any positive effect on our life. If they don’t, those tools get discarded. If they do, we try as best we can to incorporate them into our daily routines. What’s important to remember is that every person is different. Tools that work for me might not work for Cody and vice versa. However, there are a few tools that seem to be helping both of us lessen our anxiety. One of the tools is talking to each other about what might be causing our anxiety – a kind of investigative process into what situation or event might be triggering our anxiety. What usually happens is we first feel anxiety that manifests as irritation and aggravation with each other which leads to arguments. But, if we take time for reflection during or after the argument, we usually come to the conclusion that what we were arguing about had nothing to do with why we were originally feeling anxious. For example, I might be feeling irritated in the morning and come across as mean to Cody because of the comments that I make – such as expressing frustration with some aspect of what he is doing that morning (e.g. not eating breakfast fast enough and we are going to be late for school). Often with Cody, it is not the words I say that he reacts to, but the tone in which I say them. So, even if I think I am just stating a fact, it is the way I say it that causes the rift between us. If I catch myself doing this, I apologize, let him know that he is not eating any differently than he does any other day and that the source of my frustration is coming from something else. I will then try to pinpoint what it is, working through it out loud with him by naming off possible causes – such as realizing that my mind was filled with anxiety over all the things I had to get done that day, and I projected the need to get things done quickly onto him when it was really about me. There are many times I have to tell him that my anxiousness and irritation is not caused by him even though the easy, simple way would be to just blame him. I could choose to tell myself that if he would just hurry up and eat, brush his teeth, and get his shoes on instead of playing with the cat, I wouldn’t be feeling this way. That would be the easy way to blame my anxiety on someone else. But, that wouldn’t help me truly pinpoint where the anxiety was coming from so that I could implement a tool that would truly help me process it. It is important to mention that there are also many, many times I have to tell Cody I feel anxious and irritated but I have no idea why because sometimes I really don’t know why. I believe trying to work our anxiety out verbally with each other is the key. It helps us to get what we are feeling out in the open and share it with each other even if we don’t understand why we are feeling a certain way. It keeps us from being hurt by the other’s actions and lessens the chance for misunderstandings. It also helps us to work out verbally what might be going on to help us pinpoint its origins, but also keeps us from blaming each other for our own behavior. It helps us to take responsibility for how we behave. Also, going through the process verbally helps us model our internal thought processes for each other in a positive way. This has had a tremendous impact on how we communicate with each other and has helped us improve our relationship – though, in all honesty, it is a work in progress, and we sometimes forget to use it even though it’s so beneficial. The more we do it, though, the more natural is it becoming a part of who we are instead of what we do. In the next post, I will share a few more tools that we both are using to help lessen the anxiety we feel every day.

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