As we continue with 90 Days to a Happier You challenge, anxiety expert Karen Cassiday, Ph.D., addresses the most common issues that come up in the middle of a worry detox.
It is easy to start a journey and easy to finish once you are close to the end. The difficult part is what happens in the middle when you’ve lost your initial enthusiasm but are not in sight of your final goal.
The pitfall of overconfidence
This middle zone is challenging for several reasons: If you experienced some initial success, you might have gotten overconfident and stopped doing the very behaviors that led to that success. For example, if you were following my six steps for overcoming worry, you probably started feeling better. Then you may have decided that you no longer needed to keep track of your thoughts, avoid reassurance-seeking or attempt worry exposure. Big mistake! Remind yourself that the best way to keep worry in check is to turn the skills you’ve learned so far into part of your daily mental hygiene.
Too busy to stop worrying
I have really enjoyed working with Live Happy art director Kim Baker. Kim explained how her hectic life has occasionally kept her from strictly adhering to the worry detox. This offers a great illustration of something else that gets in the way of worry management skills when we are in the middle zone: Kim has gotten caught up in the tyranny of the urgent—when work deadlines, family matters and other immediate needs take precedence over what might, in the long run, be most important, learning to conquer anxiety.
Kim has great intentions to overcome her anxieties, but sometimes convinces herself in a busy moment that it is better to manage the little details and to spend her energy trying to get everything done in an ideal way than to slow down and identify what real problems need to be solved.
Double the worry, double the stress
When you worry you inevitably end up doing two things at once: the task you intended to do and the task of thinking about all the things that could go wrong. You double the effort it takes to live each moment while guaranteeing an unnecessary focus upon disaster.
Worry and reassurance-seeking make you feel as though you are avoiding potential disaster when in fact you are being taken away from fully living in the present and fully meeting the demands of the present, regardless of whether it is a pleasurable moment or a tragic moment.
Lastly, science shows us that it takes one to two years to change a habit into an automatic behavior. Be prepared for recovery to take time, to involve some slips and ultimately to be well worth the effort.
Karen Cassiday, Ph.D., is president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and a leading expert on the treatment of anxiety.