Don't Just Break Free of Anxiety. Replace the Anxiety!
“I want to break free from anxiety!” It’s a common cry, and for good reason. Anxiety, no matter the type of anxiety, can be miserable to live with day in and day out. Frequently, anxiety is a cruel warden, keeping us locked tightly behind bars, veritable prisoners of worry, fear, and guilt. Thankfully, it is indeed possible to break free from anxiety. One of the keys to doing so is to find something to replace the anxiety.
We work hard to find strategies for overcoming anxiety. Often, they work, and our anxiety diminishes. Frustratingly, it’s rather common for anxiety to ambush us and once again lock it in its prison.
What’s going on when this happens? Why is it so hard to break free and stay free? One powerful reason is that we’re focused so much on kicking anxiety to the curb that we don’t think about how we want to replace it.
It's Not Enough to Break Free of Anxiety
Anxiety works its way into our thoughts and frequently overtakes them so that we interpret nearly everything as a worry, a fear, a doubt or an agony. The thing about anxiety is that it’s tricky, and it muddles our thoughts so that they’re not always trustworthy. We become anxious thinkers.
The thoughts, in turn, impact our emotions. When we think we’re going to be judged or that something awful is sure to happen, we feel worried, frightened and panicked. We’re filled with dread and trepidation. Anxiety symptoms make us feel unwell emotionally and physically.
So we work on reducing anxiety. That’s a great step in breaking free from anxiety. It’s not quite enough, however. When anxiety goes away, it leaves a space (think of a car leaving a parking spot). If there is nothing to fill that space, there is room for anxiety to come rushing back, locking us behind its bars once again. We must fill the empty space to make it more difficult for anxiety to return.
After Breaking Free, What Will Replace Anxiety?
Ask Yourself How You Want to Be
It’s vital to move past “I want to break free from anxiety” and replace it with “I want to be______.” Feel free, yes free, to fill in the blank as you wish. Ask yourself how you want to be—who you want to be—when you are free from anxiety.
- How do you want to focus your thoughts--on people, a goal, a confident belief in yourself?
- What do you want to feel--happy, enthusiastic, peaceful, calm, motivated?
- Be very specific. What does your goal look like? What does happiness mean to you? Write it out, draw it out, do something concrete to make it real and help you keep your new self in mind.
- How are you going to get there? As you continue your other strategies to reduce anxiety, what positive new steps can you take every day to create that happiness or that calm or that zest for life?
To live once again as a free person and to stay out of Anxiety's prison, be very intentional in creating your vision for how you want to craft your life. The new, anxiety-free you can walk away from that cruel warden that is anxiety and never look back, for you will be focused on what lies ahead rather than on the anxiety you’re leaving behind.
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Peterson, T. (2014, December 18). Don't Just Break Free of Anxiety. Replace the Anxiety!, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/12/dont-just-get-rid-of-anxiety-replace-it
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS
Thank you for this great article! We at Carolina Partners work hard to find compassionate ways to help people with their mental health, and we love how you do that by helping readers realize the strategies necessary to truly get rid of anxiety. It seems like, in general, people do not spend enough time considering or discussing what is taking anxiety's place and only focus instead on how to get rid of it. So thank you for pointing out this excellent and compassionate strategy.
Hello Carolina Partners in Mental Health,
I am thrilled that you found this article useful, and I'm grateful that you took the time to share your thoughts. I agree with your observation about time spent focusing on getting rid of anxiety. That's natural, of course, but it's often ineffective by itself because it's not enough. You seem like a team that truly helps people in meaningful ways!
What a great article! People often focus on reducing symptoms of anxiety but not on moving past it. www.chicagoclinicaltherapist.com
Hello Dr. Chaban,
Thank you so much for your feedback and sharing your insight. Also, thank you for the link. Your site has a wealth of helpful information and articles that a great number of our readers could find helpful.