Hey Shrink #4: Does Anxiety Have Your Number?

David in Pamukkale, Turkey

“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” — Arthur Somers Roche

Welcome to the fourth issue of ‘Hey Shrink.’ This first series of 6 to 8 issues of this newsletter is devoted to understanding, reducing, managing, and transforming anxiety.

“I love you like a river that understands that it must learn to flow differently over waterfalls and to rest in the shallows.”  – Paulo Coelho

Anxiety like water. Imagine you are standing in water. My question for you is, how deep was the water? Was it 6 feet deep or just a few inches? (If imaging standing in water or being in water makes you anxious, remember, not to do the exercise as you don’t want to do things in the name of anxiety reduction that create more anxiety for yourself).

Standing in anxiety. Now, imagine you are “standing in anxiety” how deep is the anxiety? Is it just a small whiff of fear before you begin something or do you feel you are in danger of drowning in anxiety and need to reach out for immediate help?

Moving from numbness to numbers. It can be useful to determine the level of anxiety you are in by giving it a number. Rating your anxiety with a number stops you from being numb to this difficult experience. This gives you more control or agency over something that feels uncontrollable and sometimes the very sense of being uncontrollable contributes greatly to anxiety.

From 0 to 10. Give your anxiety a number from 0 (being almost non-existent) to 10 (debilitating anxiety). In medicine patients are sometimes asked to scale their pain: Mild pain from 0 to 3 (Nagging, annoying, but doesn’t really interfere with daily living activities.) Moderate pain from 4 to 6 (Interferes significantly with daily living activities.) Severe pain from 7 to 10 (Disabling; unable to perform daily living activities). Giving anxiety a number and keeping track of how the numbers change will help you see what is happening to the frequency, severity, and duration of your anxiety.

A measured approach. I encourage you to take a measured approach to anxiety. If the level is rising or is already uncomfortable determine what you can do to drain some of the anxiety from your anxious pool of fear. For example: a breathing exercise or getting in touch with your internal and external resources or disputing counterproductive thinking or getting some exercise or all of these things or something else that is healthy that works for you.

“The entire water of the sea can’t sink a ship, unless it gets inside the ship.” — Goi Nasu

Shallow waters. Catch yourself in the shallow waters of anxiety before you get too deep, or if your anxiety level is high already take steps to drain some of it away.

“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn

Hey Shrink: Psychological Zingers for Better Living, Working, and Wellbeing is David Zinger’s weekly newsletter offering perspectives, nuggets, nudges, considerations, or ideas to enhance your wellbeing. David taught Counselling and Educational Psychology for 25 years and he is bringing his knowledge, experience, and perspective to help you and others improve their daily living, working, and wellbeing. He is available for online and in-person workshops, coaching, and caring conversations. If you want more zing in your life and work message him directly though LinkedIn or email him at: david@davidzinger.com.

Next issue #5: Safety can Extinguish Anxiety.

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