Saturday, June 7, 2014

Addressing 'woe is me' and 'why me' thinking

Everybody has good days and bad days. When people with anxiety have bad days, we tend to fall into a “woe is me” and “why me” attitude. Maybe we let ourselves perform a compulsion over and over we know we shouldn’t have. Maybe we lacked the effort to not spot symptoms and correct our behavior. Maybe we are exhausted from a stressful week compounded with anxiety. Living with anxiety can be a struggle at times and, coupled with the usual daily stressers, it can be easy to fall into despair over continuous symptoms.

When I find myself feeling this way, I remind myself that questions about why I have anxiety usually don’t lead anywhere useful. After all, Dr. Low tells us that everyone has anxiety, but we “nervous people” tend to feel the effects more acutely and more frequently, and we have a tendency to overreact to distressing—but not dangerous—feelings that most people dismiss. As anxiety sufferers, we have a chronic condition, not likely to disappear overnight and likely requiring lifelong management.

When days seem dark and times tough, I like to adopt Dr. Low’s emphasis on being a leader in addressing one’s symptoms. Instead of rolling over, lamenting my lot in life, and letting symptoms get the best of me, I decide it’s time to double down, take control, and remind myself that feelings are not facts. Feelings and sensations cannot be controlled, but thoughts and impulses can be. “Woe is me” thinking is indeed under my control. I look back on all I’ve done, endorse myself for my achievements toward a healthier life, and recognize that sometimes there are setbacks—but setbacks do not reset my progress.

Sure, from time to time I get discouraged. But taking what Dr. Low calls the “total view” allows me to put everything in perspective. “Woe is me” and “why me” thinking focuses only on the past. This is a partial view that doesn’t benefit me. Taking the total view, recognizing my progress and projecting a long-term healthier outlook, I feel re-energized and rejuvenated. Yes, I’ll have bad days, and there will be times when I wish all of my anxiety would just go away. But recognizing I am taking a leadership role in my own health, that life is so much better now that I endorse myself for continuous spotting and practicing Recovery, recharges me and provides me with an overall broader, healthier, and optimistic view on the days ahead.