Saturday, January 29, 2011

Being realistic

When I feel anxious, sometimes it seems the world stops. You probably know the feeling: I zero in on my symptoms such as blurry vision, heart palpitations, and tightness in the chest. The more I think about my symptoms, the worse they become. Sometimes it's hard to think of anything else which, of course, is how we get into trouble. We look for ways for instant relief: For people with OCD tendencies, this might mean performing a ritual. For others, it might be escaping from the distressing situation. Either way, we do ourselves much more harm than good by not muddling through whatever troubles us.

For example, say you're having a problem with doing something at work. You might think you are making many mistakes, but that's not likely the reality. Dr. Low called this thought process romanto-intellectualism: basically, believing that if you think it or feel it, it must be real. Such an attitude distorts reality for nervous people. In actuality, what we think or feel usually does not reflect the true situation. Dr. Low reminds us that it is not how we feel but how we function, and in most cases we perform just fine--no matter how distressing the feelings or sensations. And, using this example, if you did make a mistake, better to have the courage to make a mistake than succumb to a vicious cycle of anxiety. (After all, making mistakes is average, and we should not focus on being exceptional.)

True recovery comes to those who wait and practice with patience. Although we want instant relief, that's not realistic for boosting our long-term mental health. Letting go of our fears and being realistic is part of what Recovery is all about.