How to overcome anxiety in 3 simple steps.
40 million American adults a year suffer from anxiety disorders, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. As a long-practicing psychiatrist, I find this statistic tragic.
From expensive, time-consuming, talk therapy to the side effects of different medications, anxiety can seem like a life sentence, but a simple method can help you conquer anxiety for good.
It’s called LPA — Learning / Philosophizing / Action. Step-by-step, you focus on the problem, challenge the thinking that originally led to it, and take action to replace old behaviors and habits with new ones.
First, find a quiet room. Sit in a comfortable, supportive chair. Take deep, slow breaths until you feel calm and relaxed. Then:
Take a focused look at your problem. By defining it, you start separating yourself from the anxiety. Ask yourself: What do I feel? What makes me anxious? Focus on how anxiety affects you. Does it interfere with making decisions, or focusing on other issues? Does it trigger physical discomfort, or make you impatient and agitated? Ask yourself: What is my first memory of feeling this way? What else was going on then? What did I learn? Write everything down, including how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Challenge the thinking that led to your anxiety by recognizing its origins and how it has affected your life. Ask yourself: Did someone else convince me to feel this way? Did I pick up this anxiety from a parent? Is it based on a faulty (mistaken) belief? You may have grown up thinking that feeling anxious was normal. Sometimes parents wrongly teach us that the world is a dangerous place, but faulty learning is fixable. If a child walks into kindergarten convinced that 2 + 2 = 3, it only takes one lesson to learn that’s wrong. Consider how your anxiety limits your adult life, and how it affects work and relationships. Would you undo its power if you could?
To unlearn those behaviors, practice probable versus possible. For instance, imagine that you’re anxious because you think you’ll catch a cold from using a restaurant washroom. Ask yourself: I am anxious about that happening, but is it probable, or just possible? If you’re unsure, do the research. Learn how people really catch colds. Reality is a powerful remedy.
Practice this sequence for five minutes, three times a week. If you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed, stop, and get up. Just try again later, or the next day.
The more you practice LPA, the more you’ll replace old patterns with better ones. In small, easy steps, by creating a new perspective, you can defuse anxiety’s power, and reclaim your life.
By Dr. Robert T. London
Psychiatrist, Educator, and Author
Robert London, MD, is a well-known psychiatrist, educator, and writer. A practitioner for 40 years, he is founder and former head of the short-term psychotherapy unit at NYU Langone Medical Center, and a pioneer in consumer health care radio and TV programming. His new book is Find Freedom Fast : Short-Term Therapy That Works.