How do you talk to your anxiety? How do you communicate with your anxiety?
Why Talk To Your Anxiety?
Let’s start by recognizing why you would want to talk to your anxiety in the first place. There’s no reason to try to literally talk to it – unless it’s because you want to it to stop or make it go away.
“Please, leave me alone!”
“You’re ruining my life!”
“Why do you make me feel like this?”
“Please, go away. I hate you!”
Making anxiety stop is not your primary goal – that’s the secondary effect. In recovery, you are learning to change your relationship to anxiety, fear and panic. You’re learning to react to it in a new way. You learn to send new signals to your brain. Over time, these new signals teach your brain to turn off the misfiring threat response. So you’re never trying to banish anxiety with words. You’re always working toward learning to not fear it any longer. Talking to anxiety with words and thoughts … is not part of the plan.
Your Amygdala Doesn’t Understand Words
When you try talking to your anxiety, you’re really talking to yourself. The mechanism of anxiety doesn’t really understand words. It can’t even hear them. These are primal things, The threat response is a part of your survival mechanism, designed to keep you safe. It’s rooted in a part of your brain that doesn’t really dabble in logic, reasoning or language. So when you are trying to talk TO your anxiety, you are really just talking to the higher parts of your brain that understand the words that you’re saying. Those parts get it, but that doesn’t matter because the message never makes it down into “lizard brain land”. So consider that when you try to talk yourself down by telling your anxiety special things, you are really having no effect other than to try to soothe the part of your brain that understands words and thoughts.
You Can Only “Talk” To Anxiety With ACTIONS!
You can’t communicate with anxiety through words. It has no way to receive that information.
So, how DO you talk to anxiety ? How can you teach it that it has been wrong all along? How can you show your lizard brain that it can stand down?
The way you talk to your anxiety is through behavior!
The amygdala understands behavior, experience and sensation. This is the language it speaks. It takes input you give it, processes it, then decides to either continue to sound the alarm, or to turn it off. That input is not words. That input is actions. Body language. Physical behaviors. You can talk to your anxiety through action. You must send it bodily, behavioral and action signals.
Send your brain danger, escape and avoidance signals, and it will keep betraying you with false alarms at inappropriate times. Send it “safe” signals, and it will learn to simmer down over time. Do what you’ve always done, and stay stuck. Do the opposite and watch things get better.
You will have to do the OPPOSITE of what anxiety tells you to do. Relax your muscles. Slow down. Focus on the world outside your head, rather than on the scary sensations and anxious, fearful thoughts. Disengage from the catastrophic inner conversation anxiety wants to have with you. Engage in body language that looks like a human in a safe place!
- Learn how to breathe properly when afraid.
- Learn how to relax your muscles when afraid.
- Learn to selectively focus AWAY from your fear when afraid.
Do these things because these are the skills required to send the “all safe” signal to anxiety. This is the language of the amygdala. Learn that language. Practice it. When anxiety appears, speak to it in the only way it understands. When your fear center wants to sound that false alarm again, show it through behavior and action that it can stand down and turn off the misguided threat response.
THIS is how you talk to your anxiety. Without talking.
You can not TELL your brain recovery. You can only SHOW it.
This is difficult. This is challenging. This is NOT what you want to do. Do it anyway. You can learn to do hard things. I know you can.
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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)