I have an anxious brain.
I was born with an anxious brain.
For as long as I can remember my brain worked a little differently than other people who weren’t blessed with thinking in layers; an abundance
of creativity and empathy and an innate ability to recognize and understand subtle nuances.
When I was a child…
I struggled with being so blessed. When it would snow and my father would go out to shovel, I would go with him to help.
My sisters would start out helping as well but often would return inside to the warmth of our house. I wouldn’t go inside, no matter how cold I was, even when my father would encourage me to. My brain wouldn’t let me.
You see, I would worry that something could happen to him lifting all that heavy snow. So, I stayed outside and we would finish shoveling together.
I hated the way my brain worked because it made me feel different.
All that started to change when I began to recognize the benefits of how my brain worked instead of bemoaning the discomfort I often felt.
I began to feel empowered when I started working with my anxious brain instead of working against it.
I envision anxiety to be a balloon inside my head, that when activated would inflate and fill every inch of space within my head.
How do I deflate this all encompassing balloon in a healthy way?
How do I respond to the negative what ifs that attempt to hijack my sense of self?
Do I try and ignore my worries and uncomfortable thoughts?
All these questions floated in my mind as I began to explore ways to manage the negative aspects of an anxious brain without losing the many positives and rewards that an anxious brain can bring.
Making my anxiety work for me
The blessings I speak about, led me on a career path that enabled me to utilize my natural abilities.
In my role as a Clinical Social Worker, I have drawn upon my education in addition to the many innate strengths I possess to help others to navigate their journey. I developed various methods using a variety of modalities to address reducing the discomfort of anxiety while embracing the essence of an anxious brain.
Embrace your anxious brain
There is a method that I have developed that I am going to discuss in this article.
I call this method ARD.
ARD is a three step approach to managing the discomfort of anxiety.
1. The first step is to ACKNOWLEDGE whatever it is that is causing you to worry.
Do not push the worry away.
If you push the worry away too quickly, the message you are sending to your brain is that your thoughts and worries are not worthy. Take a hold of that worry and allow your brain to spend a short time thinking about it, perhaps writing down some thoughts connected to this worry.
2. After you haven given this worry the respect it deserves, you are ready to move to the second step which is REASSURE.
Reassure yourself that you can manage this worry.
Reassure yourself that you have more power than the worry does.
Reassure yourself that you have gotten past other worries and you will conquer this as well.
A helpful tool to do this is to refer to the file cabinet in your brain.
We all have a file cabinet in our brains. This file cabinet stores many worries/experiences we have had that we didn’t think we could manage, but we did.
In some of these experiences we not only managed, but we soared past. Refer to these files. This will help to give you the strength and confidence you need to be able to reassure yourself.
3. After you have accomplished the first two steps, you move to the third step which is DISTRACTION.
Now you can distract your brain safely to something that is not
connected to your worry.
This distraction can be a thought change or getting involved in a physical activity to divert your attention away from your worry.
This will allow the worry part of your brain to relax and rejuvenate.
And what about those negative, “What ifs?”
Lastly, if your brain tells you, “What if this won’t work out?” or “What if I fail?”
Firmly counter and flip this thought to What if this DOES work out, and what if I DO succeed!
Embrace and nurture your anxious brain. This is what makes you, uniquely you.
LCSW | Art Therapist
I am a licensed clinical social worker and art therapist with over 30 years experience working in various settings. I pride myself on being able to engage the most resistant patients and have been successful in helping many people cope with and overcome the many challenges that are present in today’s stressful world.