Saturday, November 29, 2008


I've had a lot of counselors. Graduate students, PhDs, LSWS—I think maybe more than ten in ten years. I've learned something from each one (Well, except the guy who wanted to cure me in six sessions to appease my insurance). One counselor who had anxiety problems herself was really helpful, but she decided to focus her practice on spirituality and relationships, so we had to part ways.

One thing they've all told me about is the importance of flashcards. Basically, on index cards you write inspiring and hopeful messages to counter negative and anxious thoughts. For example:
  • I am perfectly imperfect—and that's OK!
  • I trust myself.
  • So what if I'm feeling anxious. This feeling will pass.
  • Good for you for taking this head on and having the courage to do this.
When anxious, you review your flashcards, and you do this over and over. The goal is to reprogram your brain to accept these messages to replace the anxious ones. Or at least that's how I understand it.

For a long time, I did not like flashcards. They just seemed to gimmicky to me. I wanted to take a pill and be free from anxiety. It took me a long time to realize that overcoming anxiety is not that easy. Medication can help some folks manage the symptoms, but overcoming anxiety also requires hard work. Brain work.

Finally, two months ago I decided to give flashcards a shot. At first, my response was very negative: This isn't going to work. But every time I was anxious, I would refer to them—a quick "reality check" from that flood of anxious thoughts. It took time, but now I'm starting to believe those hopeful messages. I carry my flashcards with me and refer to them quite frequently. I add new cards when I think of uplifting messages.

I wish I would have taken my counselors' advice about flashcards earlier. But that's the odd thing about living with anxiety (at least for me): You learn to live with it, and are skeptical of being free from it, even when people try to help. But instead of letting anxiety influence so much of my life, I now want to focus on living instead of anxiety.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip on the flashcards...I'm going through what some people would consider a fairly mild bout of GAD right now (although then never see minor to ME), and every tool I can bring into play is a help.

I hope you are well.


hope said...

this is the second time reading about the help of flashcards... i might try this one... sincerely, because before i have read about this i was writing like:

"think happy thoughts" but those cards are attached on my pc only but not with me all the time...

thanks again! i'll carry the cards next time...

StefJay said...

Flashcards are a great idea! What I did was write down a few statements in my phone and use them when I'm having a bad day. They help really well and I know I always have them with me