• Managing Anxiety? Practice Annoyed Acceptance

    Acceptance is the First Step in Managing Anxiety

    We all have one. That well-meaning but terribly annoying family member or (worse) in-law who inevitably comes to every family event, stays the longest, and tests your goodwill and patience. Maybe it’s an aunt. Maybe it’s your mother-in-law. No matter who it is, you’re familiar with the feeling – the annoyed “ugh” feeling you get when that person walks through the door, ready to “hang” for the duration, sucking all of the energy from the room. But, after we give some annoyed acceptance to the presence of this person, we allow ourselves to move through the rest of the time together, perhaps bothered here and there, but with more resignation. I’m asking you to do the same for your anxiety – rather than avoiding it, denying it, or pushing it away, can you make space for it by holding an attitude of annoyed acceptance?

    Avoiding Anxiety Is Not the Answer

    Though avoidance is a hallmark of anxiety, the more that we give into an attitude of avoidance, the worse our anxiety can become, taking up more space, digging in its heels, staking its claim. We engage in an endless test of wills, and let me tell you, anxiety can be the most winning loser I know. She will outlast you every time, especially the more that you reject her. Staying with the metaphor, I’m not asking you to invite that annoying relative to a one-on-one dinner, but I’m encouraging you to accept that they may inquire about an invitation a little more and with more fervor than you’d like. Telling him/her that you know they’re there, rather than getting into an energy push and pull, is the way to go. The quicker that you move from a place of rejection to a place of annoyed acceptance of anxiety, the more adeptly you can begin to transition from active annoyance to seeing your anxiety as more of a bother that you’re developing ways to cope with. Just like we can’t choose our family, we can’t choose whether or not anxiety pulls up a seat to the table.

    How to Let Go of the Anxiety Push/Pull

    Maybe I’m dating myself, but do you remember the formerly very popular birthday party or carnival give-away toys, Chinese finger traps? When the “unsuspecting” user of these little games puts one finger of each hand into each side of the “trap,” he or she quickly realizes that pulling their fingers out only generates more tension, trapping the fingers! Essentially, the more that you struggle, the tighter the grip of the woven fabric or straps. You’re caught! Only by relaxing the pull and gently surrendering to the trap does the tension in the woven straps ease, and you can gently extricate your fingers. Letting go of anxiety follows a similar process. If you can accept that you’re having an anxious moment, day, or even a week or month, you’ve already entered “step one” of managing your anxiety. And if you find yourself too frequently caught, maybe it’s time to consider anxiety counseling, which is something that I can help out with.

    Most of us would not rationally choose to invite anxiety into our lives, but like an unwelcome guest or an unanticipated trap, we can accept its presence rather than avoiding it, and greet it. From there, we add to our set of tools for managing anxiety, rather than retreating from it and living in fear of it.

    I help women get control of the anxiety that overwhelms their lives by assisting them in learning strategies to (mostly) peacefully coexist with it. This is the first post in a series of how to take action to manage your anxiety; I hope you find it helpful!

    About the author:

    Leah Rockwell, LPC, LCPC is a licensed professional counselor in PA and MD, providing counseling services for women through feminist therapy. She’s a lovingly direct counselor and a co-parenting mom of two daughters, determined to make the world a better place for tomorrow’s girls. In former lives, she was a Spanish teacher, a sex education instructor, a wine vendor, and she is pretty sure she was a mermaid.