Now that we’ve debunked common anxiety myths in a previous blog it’s time to look at why it’s important to accept anxiety.
Many afflicted with anxiety disorders resort to fighting anxiety by avoiding situations that could induce it or simply ignoring it. These strategies are not effective and lead to a live of avoidance and not being present in day-to-day activities – I should know, this is how I approached anxiety for years. I struggled being in the moment whether in my personal or professional lives since I was all-consumed with worry about when my anxiety would rise or when the next panic attack would hit.
Reason 1: Being Present in Life
After weeks of therapy I have learned that a life lived avoiding anxiety was not one i was interested in any longer. I would beat myself up for not being strong enough to overcome it while it slowly and surely beat-down my confidence. Here is a simple analogy that helped me understand anxiety and may help you or a loved one too embrace anxiety:
If someone is diabetic should they just ignore the fact that they need insulin? Such a decision could be fatal! Same goes for anxiety, if it is ignored it will not simply go away!
With the help of ACT (Anxiety Commitment Therapy) I have learned to accept anxiety for what it is. Give the anxiety a name, acknowledge that it is always with you and know that it will surface when you least expect it. See the video below for a powerful metaphor for what anxiety is and how the ACT approach works in The Uninvited Guest!
Reason 2: Dangers of Short-Term Avoidance Strategies
Unfortunately many with anxiety disorders rely on short-term avoidance strategies like medication, alcohol or other substances to manage anxiety – as did I. This is a common approach since it is the “easiest” – doctors write prescriptions for anxiety medications and short-term fixes like having a drink seem so quick and easy.
Best case this not effective over the long term, worst case it can be deadly. Users of commonly-prescribed benzodiazepines like Alprazolam (Xanax) and Clonazepam (Klonipin) build a tolerance to them so that more of the drugs are required to achieve the same effect. Worse, the combination of meds and depressants like alcohol can slow-down the central nervous system that may cause extreme drowsiness and worst case – death. There are certainly use cases where these meds are viable and the best solution for a patient, but beware the risks and be very careful with combining them with other substances.
Reason 3: ACT Works!
The content of this website is based on accepting and managing anxiety (ACT). The theory behind ACT is that it is ineffective and counterproductive to try to control painful emotions or psychological experiences, because suppression of these feelings ultimately leads to more distress. ACT adopts the view that there are valid alternatives to trying to change the way you think, and these include mindful behavior, attention to personal values, and commitment to action.
Here’s the kicker with acceptance and commitment therapy and why many don’t invest the time to do it – it is not a quick solution! It takes time, daily practice, routine, support from others. We will dive into details of ACT in subsequent posts so stay tuned.