This can be a time of immense stress, overwhelm and depression for many. Discover the tools that could help you manage anxiety and have phenomenal coping skills to transform your life.
Here’s a secret for you that might just change your life…
Everything you feel is the result of just two things:
- The pictures you make in your head
- The words you say to yourself.
What most people don’t understand is that you have full power and control to choose better words and pictures – not just sometimes, but all the time.
Very successful people understand that we have the power to create the words and pictures in our mind – you’re doing it all the time without even realising it. After all, we all talk to ourselves continually and fill our minds with images.
When it comes to understanding how to deal with anxiety, what I am helping you to do is to fill up your mind with better words and images and notice the consistently better response you get.
We are hard-wired to look for danger, which naturally triggers anxiety
It is possible to reverse anxiety, but most people don’t realise they have a choice. As humans, we are unfortunately hard-wired to be attuned to what might go wrong.
The reason is because it was evolutionarily beneficial for us to do so. As Oliver Burkeman once wrote in the Guardian: ‘This is what makes bad news especially compelling: In our evolutionary past, it was a very good thing that your attention could be easily seized by negative information, since it might well indicate an imminent risk to your own survival. (The cave-dweller who always assumed there was a lion behind the next rock would usually be wrong, but he’d be much more likely to survive and reproduce than one who always assumed the opposite.)’
That is exactly why it is easier to be negative than positive; once upon a time we were more likely to survive if we were negative. Even today we could say strapping on a seat belt is ‘negative’, because it means we are expecting to crash. However, the seat belt is making us more likely to survive. The very good news is we no longer need to be negative to survive. We can choose to be positive and choose to have a happier and more productive life as a result.
Expect the Best
Whether it’s a layoff from work, an airplane ride, or an unexpected illness, you largely can’t control the external forces that influence your life, but you can choose the beliefs, words, and mindset that you respond to these factors with.
Here’s the thing, we can choose to actively counter our inclination to expect the worst and expect the best instead (or at least a more manageable version of what we’re actually going through).
“Too Good to be True?”
This is not fantasy or meaningless positive thinking. The reason this seems “too good to be true” is that the vast majority of people go through life not knowing this is how to deal with anxiety.
I often have clients and readers who say: “Sure, Marisa, changing beliefs through visualising different pictures may work for other people, but visualisation doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried it.”
To those people I sometimes say: “Well lucky you! That means you are always free of fear, anxiety, and shame. As all of those emotions come from negative visualisations.”
Of course, they quickly realise that they are visualising realities all day in their lives—”I’m going to mess that up… This job is so stressful… My children are making me crazy…” They just don’t realise those visualisations are affecting them negatively.
We all visualise continually—all you have to do is visualise better by visualising positive outcomes. That in itself can dramatically improve your happiness level.
“I can’t cope!”
I used to have a client who was, quite simply, utterly overwhelmed by her life. Her children were overbearing, her husband unhelpful, and her job left her feeling overstretched and under-appreciated each and every day.
As I sat through our session, I paid very close attention to the language she was using. She repeatedly said: “I can’t cope! I can’t cope with my badly behaved children, I can’t cope with how impossible my job is, I can’t cope with my constantly chaotic household.”
When I pointed out to her that she was frequently using the phrase: “I can’t cope.” she immediately broke down: “Oh my goodness, my mother used to say that constantly.”
This client had inherited that phrase—and by extension, that belief—from her mother. She was not taking responsibility for the words and pictures she was choosing. As a result, she had convinced herself that her life was one she could not cope with.
“I have phenomenal coping skills”
The transformation of how to deal with anxiety came when we replaced the phrase: “I can’t cope” with something more empowering: “I have phenomenal coping skills.”
Every time she began to feel overwhelmed in her life, I instructed her to say out loud or to herself: “I have phenomenal coping skills.” This subtle shift slowly made her believe the phrase was true.
By using different words, she created a different picture.
In a few weeks, she came back feeling far less overwhelmed by her life, succeeding in her job and getting on better with her kids and husband, who had noticed a shift in her. However, her life hadn’t actually changed at all—just her beliefs about it had, which made it all the more bearable.
Notice here that I didn’t instruct my client to say something that wasn’t true. Her job was hard, and her kids were a challenge. But by changing the overtly negative: “My job is hell, my kids are rude and badly behaved” to a more neutral, realistic version of events: “My job is demanding and my kids can be a challenge, but I have phenomenal coping skills,” you create less emotion-charged feelings towards it.
This isn’t about the power of positive thinking and pretending everything is rosy.
It’s about actively reframing the events of your life to reflect a different, more realistic picture.
So, “I’m late again, I’ve really messed up, everything is going to go wrong today,” turns into: “I prefer to be on time, but I can still do this. I can get through the day in a manageable fashion.” With the latter phrase, you’re not pretending you’re Superman or Superwoman, but you are encouraging yourself to not expect the worst.
Give your mind clear instructions
One of my clients had a phobia that was so extreme she was hospitalised. On her release, as part of her outpatients treatment, she attended group therapy and would sit in a circle with other patients and each had to say something positive.
She would tell me that they all said something along the lines of: “today I saw some daffodils and I felt better.” At her turn she would follow their lead and say: “butterflies make me feel calm,” or something similar. I told her she was not giving her mind clear directions to
curtail her anxiety and at the next therapy meeting, when it was her turn, I asked her to say out loud, “I have phenomenal coping skills.” The following week she was to say, “I have extraordinary coping skills,” then “I have exemplary coping skills,” and then, “I have outstanding coping skills.”
Not only did she report that she felt much better, she also reported other patients asking if they could share her message. The therapist wrote those words on the board and commented that this group was making the fastest progress in recovering.
This was of course because they gave their mind clear instructions. Saying out loud to themselves and others, “I have extraordinary coping skills,” gives the mind a very clear instruction. Using this technique, you can help direct your mind to manage anxiety and have phenomenal coping skills.
What you present to your mind, your mind will then present back to you.
It all starts with your words, which you have the power to change.
Taking responsibility for the words and pictures in your head is perhaps the biggest thing that separates those who don’t have what they want from those that do. The fact is that most of the clients I see every day are not aware that how they feel about the world around them is influenced by choices they are making.
It’s important that I provide my readers with practical ways to implement these changes…
So, let’s say that each and every time you start to try and change your negative thought patterns, your mind takes over and insists on reintroducing negativity and unhelpful words and pictures into your head.
Just as I did with my client who insisted she couldn’t cope, pay close attention to the words and phrases you’re constantly saying to yourself. Once you’ve identified some repeat offenders, ask yourself:
What would you say to your best friend?
Would you say: “Oh, you’re always messing things up.” “You’re so hopeless.” “You really have taken on way too much, you’ll never get it all done.”
Chances are, if you’re a good friend, you wouldn’t dream of saying those things; you would be kind and encouraging and helpful. As a friend, you might say: “Life isn’t perfect but we all do the best we can,” or “I’m sure you’ll get through it, and I’ll help you get there.”
So, ask yourself what might happen if you choose to talk to yourself as you might address a friend. Be kind and encouraging and supportive to yourself and you’ll be amazed at how much easier the world around you seems to become.
It’s time for you to be a better friend to yourself, by ending all the self-criticism.
You can choose whether to be negative and critical about yourself or positive and full of praise. Which one do you think will be most useful for how to deal with anxiety?
Your mind does not know, and indeed does not care, if what you tell it is right or wrong, good or bad, true or false, helpful or very unhelpful—it just lets it in.
Your job is to give your mind much more powerful, descriptive and positive words. Your mind’s job is to act on the words you tell it. Your mind is doing its job, so do your job and give it better instructions all the time.
Even when it may not feel like it – you do have a choice, we always have a choice.
You can choose to be negative, use negative language and feel lousy because of it. Or you can choose to be positive, use positive language and notice your life gets better. This is the secret to phenomenal coping skills and how to deal with anxiety.
One thing you can’t choose is the effect negative thoughts have on your mind and body: the illnesses, anxiety and stress you inadvertently inflict by giving your mind negative instructions through the use of negative words.
You are what you repeatedly think you are.
With all these techniques, it’s important to note that repetition makes a difference. My former client didn’t say, “I have phenomenal coping skills” five times and found that her life changed overnight.
She used the phrase as an interruptive tool, each time she felt her mind straying into negative thought patterns. By the time she had improved, she had said the phrase out loud hundreds of times—as well as having it as the screensaver on her phone, written on her mirror, in her car – repeating it constantly until it had become true.
You repeat negative thoughts in your head all day long, and they become true.
The good news is, the repetition of encouraging phrases is just as powerful as the repetition of negative ones, so make sure you give the former a chance to really sink in before you give up on it. With repetition and mental absorption, it will sink in and nourish you like lotion on dry skin.
A happy mind – a happy you.
The secret to phenomenal coping skills and how to deal with anxiety is simple yet true. You don’t need years of therapy to get back the perfect confidence and lack of anxiety you were born with. By taking responsibility for the words and pictures in your head, you could get back the confidence and lack of anxiety you were born with.
These insights and more practical techniques to help you transform your life are all in my book I AM Enough and as a special gift, I’m giving you access to my PERFECT RELAXATION AUDIO, absolutely FREE.