How to Deal With Anxiety (Day 2): The Pivot

Many people find that anxiety is unpleasant so they try to wrestle with it to get rid of it.

For many this sets up a ‘doom loop’ where they start feeling anxious about their anxiety.  Along with being unpleasant, this is also very time consuming and energy sapping.

It’s possible to spend our whole lives trying to control, eliminate or distract ourselves from anxiety and then wonder why we are not the person we hoped or wanted to be.

When anxiety – or rather not having anxiety – becomes the main objective in our lives then we know we need a different approach.

One approach that I have personally found helpful is to counter anxiety by 1) being willing to have it whilst 2) committing fiercely to my values.  In this excellent video Mark Freeman calls this pivoting away from anxiety.

If you want to try this for yourself, try this simple exercise:

Step 1.

Identify some adjectives to describe how you want to behave during this crisis with different people, for example with:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Colleagues
  • Your wider community
  • Online
  • Strangers

Write your adjectives down on post-it notes.

An example for me:  During this crisis, I want to be both kind and compassionate but also humorous wherever I can be.

Step 2.

Once you have identified these adjectives, think about what kind of behaviours would help you move in the direction you’ve described.  For example, if you want to be compassionate to your friends and family, what kind of behaviours would help you do that?

An example for me:  I will offer some pro bono psychology sessions for people feeling really stressed and anxious.  I can also make jokes and stay lighhearted when I interact with neighbours and friends.  This is me today with two neighbours.

Step 3.

See if you can commit to some more of these behaviours, even in the presence of anxiety, and then notice how that feels.  How does it feel to live one of your values, even in the presence of anxiety?

Career Change, Career Development, Career Management

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