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How to Extinguish Anxiety Before Your Day Begins

As a therapist with a strong passion for all things trauma/life transitions/identity development, I can honestly say that no client has walked through my door (or logged in online) without some measure of anxiety. In my professional opinion, what we often label as "anxiety" is just the best word we know for describing what we feel is unresolved. Perhaps the lack of resolution shows up with ruminating about what you think you should have said or done when someone caused you to feel misunderstood or hurt. Or, perhaps it shows up as especially negative judgments towards yourself because you "should have known" this or that. Sometimes, we just feel an intense need to stay busy and keep moving or numb out with substances, self-punishment, or screens when these are in fact opposite ends of the spectrum for the same lack of resolution.

What I find most astonishing is how often I ask a client, "When did you first notice this anxiety?" only to have them answer, "It's always been there."


I call b.s.

Sometimes I call b.s. gently, and sometimes directly if I think my client is up for a little mental health sparring that day. I pose that their anxiety has not always been there. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Come to find with anywhere from 5-15 minutes of digging, we always find the beginning. No joke! It's an incredible breakthrough to find where the source of this lack of resolution lies. One of my favorite moments as a therapist, honestly.

What I use in session is most often a method of chain analysis based in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I like to teach my clients tools that they can use on their own between sessions, but when anxiety is intense it's helpful to have someone to guide them. Even with chain analysis, those with anxiety struggle to get out of bed and the negative thoughts come hurling towards them through the night in dreams and into the morning hours before they even orient themselves enough to rise from their beds.

I ask you to try something new the next time you're feeling anxious. Even more, I ask you to try it with a healthy amount of skepticism and curiosity equally. Whether this following exercise is a huge hit for you or not, anxiety itself tends to diminish a least a fraction of a degree when we try something new in the moment. It's a win-win!

When the world doesn't make sense because there is no resolution in sight for the moment, I encourage something so simple it's profound that it works at all in the storm of anxiety...

Set your intention. This can look like a few different practices. Try on the following and see what works best for you:

  1. Identify what is most important for you that day. Is it not flipping your lid? Is it making sure you are treating yourself like someone you're responsible for? How about expressing gratitude for what brought you to where you are today?

  2. Identify your mantra/affirmation for the day. This sounds something like... Today I will be patient Today I will be present Today I am happy

  3. Visualize whatever your intention is. If you want to get through the day making connections to others, let yourself focus on what that would look like. Go there in detail. Imagine how you would act/think/feel and how others would act/think/feel if you were successful.

  4. Set your intention on reminding yourself how you are connected to others even when you feel overwhelmed or alone. Who made the bed you lie on? Who made it possible for those people to have jobs? Who gathered the raw material for the

mattress itself? How did you get it into your home? Who provided you with the funds to purchase the mattress? What did they have to do to pay you what you've earned? The list goes on and on... Allow yourself to picture the largeness of the world and thereby the severity of the thoughts ruling your brain.

So here's the rub... you will fail at some point during the day. We all do. Know that if you catch yourself losing your intention, you can always come back to it. It's there waiting for you. When you realize this has happened, even as your head hits the pillow that night, know that you can reset your intention again at any time. Allow yourself three deep breaths while you repeat your intention. See how you feel.

Understand that these practices do not offer you a resolution to what is bothering you, but they do provide a middle path until you reach peace. All we have is this moment. Take the next step that gets you closer to your intention. Snuff out anxiety and reduce the fuel supply. This is your introduction to beginning the day with mindfulness.

Know that I see and honor the light within you. Sending positive energy your way!

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1 Comment

Brandon  Graser
Brandon Graser
Jul 08, 2023

🤔so how is that supposed to work if I'm asleep ?

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