What would replace the anxiety if you didn’t have it?

This was not just one of the most powerful questions I was asked during Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). When I finally worked out the answer, it would become one of the most life changing.

At first, I didn’t quite get it. I no doubt pulled my ‘WTF’ face. More questions running through the spaghetti head. What sort of question is that? How do I know? Isn’t that for you to tell me? Jeez.

The therapist then started to draw a pie chart. I remember the majority of the chart was anxiety, she then reworded the question slightly different.

“On this chart what would you like to replace the anxiety with if you didn’t have it?”

Visuals obviously work for me. I remember sharing with her that I would like to be happy more than anxious. I would like to be more carefree than anxious. I would like to replace the things I worry about with things I won’t worry about. I want to replace the fear with excitement, for things that should be enjoyed, like social occasions, concerts, and anything fun. I want to like me again. 

She asked “So today when you start to become anxious what do you start thinking about?”

My response “…about becoming more anxious.”

I recall explaining in more detail how it is a vicious circle. I think one negative thought, this makes me anxious, leading me to have more negative thoughts about everything and anything. Then if someone talks about the slightest thing negative that sends me into overdrive. I can start worrying even if it is nothing to do with me… and don’t even get me started on what happens if I read or watch the news, I basically take full responsibility for every bad thing happening in the world.

She questioned “So you get anxious about being anxious?”

Me: “Every Day.”

During the chat she asked, “Do you try and interrupt the thoughts to stop them?”.

I think my next facial expression most likely reflected “WTAF” Errrrrrrrrr If I could do that why would I be here?!?!!!!!

This is where the life changing bit comes in…

During the remainder of that session I was introduced to one of my most favourite power tools ‘Affirmations’ (Tool #11).

She showed me how I can interrupt my negative thoughts with positive ones.

She showed me how to replace the anxious thoughts with more positive ones.

She showed me how to replace worry with positivity.

She showed me how to accept the anxiety, so I no longer was fearful of it.

It was NOT easy.

I had to work hard at it. It was bloody tiring at times. There were occasions I wanted (and did) give up trying. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Interrupt. Interrupt. Interrupt.

Sometimes it didn’t work, but more importantly, sometimes it did.

I now knew that I could control my thoughts.  I may not be able to stop the negative chatter starting but I could stop it from taking over. If I could think a negative thought, I could think a positive one. If over time I had replaced positive thoughts I once had, then surely, I could replace the negative ones that have taken over. If I had been happy before, I can be happy again.

Now, this is why it is important that I had spent time creating my own affirmations that meant something to me personally. In the midst of anxiety it is extremely hard, at times impossible, to think of a positive thought, but when I had an affirmation that I had created I could pull it out, read it, read it again, and again, repeat, repeat, repeat. It made me feel like I was going mad at times, but the more I repeated the more the negative, disturbing and anxious thoughts would back off.

Within weeks the pie chart was changing, the anxiety pie was crumbling away. This tool was not only making me feel better amid anxiety it was reducing the daily negative thinking. ‘Positive’ was starting to become the norm.

More recently following a number of life challenges, changes and self-doubt the negative chatter has arrived at my door once more, chasing me around, knocking my confidence, making me question my belief system and allowing anxiety to step back in. Anxiety has wanted a huge piece of that pie.

Reflection took me back to the CBT couch, to the question “What would replace the anxiety if you did not have it?”. I quickly pulled out Tool#10 and accepted that recently I have been focusing so much on sharing affirmations with everyone else, I haven’t given my own affirmations any focus. I haven’t been using my tool that I know can help me so much. So, I have been putting the effort back in and once more they are working for me.

This week I nearly cancelled a very important meeting that would really help me grow as a coach but most importantly it would help a young client who has started to experience anxiety. Fear of failure and the negative chatter did their best to hold me back. It was not easy but I pulled out the affirmations that have been with me for 13 years and repeat…repeat…repeat… with some extra help from Tools #2 Breathe, #5 Essential Oils,  #8 Rescue Remedy & #17 Reiki… they did not let me down. 

It isn’t always easy, it can be extremely tiring, sometimes I wish I did not have to put so much effort in. Yet I know I need to keep charging my tools as they have helped me replace the anxiety pie with a huge slice of self-belief, happiness and mindfulness… and a huge slice of gratitude.

What would replace the anxiety if you didn’t have it?

Wishing you a very positive day.