“There is nothing to fear but fear itself”….well that’s not entirely true, noticing a tiger waiting in the bush about to pounce on you is worth fearing, and that’s a very useful biological reason to have fear. It gets your heart hate up so you can run fast, makes you hyper-vigilant (over aware of everything) so you can see all the dangers clearly and prepares you to get out fast or fight hard! The problem is that our big brains have developed the ability for abstract thinking and long term planning which have come in turn to interpret far more than just the tiger in the bush to be threatening. The approach I like to use for chronic anxiety is basically over-riding the automatic settings on your brain. First through mindfulness (or increased awareness), then by beginning to pause when you notice the fear and then choosing alternative thoughts and actions that break the habitual cycle of anxiety. For example - you notice that when thinking about a date you have tomorrow night your chest tightens and your thoughts race - you find your thinking, “I cant do this, they’re going to find me out for the loser I am, whats the point anyway” - and then canceling the date. Once the date is cancelled your nervous system feels its out of danger, your heart rate comes down and you feel relief (a reward), thus reinforcing the system. After some time people may notice their world getting smaller and smaller to avoid the anxiety yet the overall patter of anxiety is getting worse, not better. When working with mindfulness and cognitive behavior therapy I help you to break the cycle and it might look like this: You notice your heart and thoughts racing when thinking about the date - you notice the harmful old thought patterns - you pause - you choose the new thought - “I’m experiencing fear and that’s OK, I’m not actually in danger. This date might not go well, but I might feel proud of myself just for giving it a shot.” - you take soothing actions like shaking out your arms and legs, taking a walk or a bath and get your heart rate down. You go on the date even though you felt or still feel some of the anxiety. You are rewarded because of the pride you feel for overcoming the anxiety and begin to break the association between listening to fear and reward. Over time of repeating this your world begins to get bigger and less scary because you can now see that “courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act in the presence of fear”. OK, enough with the presidential quotes, I hope you get the point. Please call or email if you’d like to talk more about it.