If you are like most people struggling with anxiety, you’ve probably come to think of your anxiety as some intrinsic part of who you are. Perhaps you’ve made statements similar to these:
“I always think everyone is judging me.”
“I’m scared to death of failing.”
“I hate performing in front of people.”
“I’m terrified of germs.”
“I hate going to school.”
One thing you’ll notice about all of these statements is that “I” (the person) is the designated problem. But identifying with your fears and worries in this way can be disempowering, not to mention inaccurate. The truth is that there is a “you” buried beneath all of those worries who might not agree with those above statements, and who might have dreams and desires far different from those of your anxiety.
‘Separating yourself from your anxiety’ can be an effective way of gaining more confidence and control in the face of your fears. Start with the simple step of imagining your anxiety as an external force, something that has invaded your life and is trying to control you. This is usually not too difficult to do because this is what anxiety often feels like.
Next, decide how you want to refer to this external force. This can be as simple as calling it “Anxiety,” Social Anxiety,” or “OCD,” or it can involve coming up with a creative name for your anxiety like “Mr. Worrier” or “The Control Freak” or “The Couch Potato.” You can give your worries a name, something like “Worry Tricks,” “Brain Hiccups,” “Junk Thoughts,” or “False Alarms.” Have fun with it. Preferably you can find a label that diminishes the authority of your anxiety and makes you feel more in control.
Finally, put yourself back in the driver’s seat. Try thinking and talking about your anxiety as something separate from you that you can choose to either listen to or ignore:
“Mr. Worrier is telling me that everyone is judging me, but he tends to worry about everything. I’m going to play in the soccer game anyway.”
“The control freak wants me to spend another hour rewriting my notes from class. I’m not going to listen to him because that’s not how I want to be spending my time.”
“OCD is telling me that my shirt is contaminated with germs, but OCD usually lies. I’m going to wear it because it’s my favorite shirt.”
“The false alarm is going off again, but there isn’t really a fire. I’m going to go to school and take that test.”
Sound much better, doesn’t it? Give this simple strategy a try. Chances are you’ll find yourself feeling a little more in control and a little less worried about the things your anxiety is telling you.