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I Feel Anxious. How Can I Cope? Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2, I introduced coping skills and cognitive restructuring techniques. Hopefully, you had a chance to try them out. Now, I will tie this blog series together through a discussion of core beliefs and acceptance.

What are Core Beliefs?

In Part 1, I briefly touched upon core beliefs. To recap, core beliefs about a situation can lead to anxiety, and processing these core beliefs can be beneficial. Now, let’s delve deeper into the concept of core beliefs. Essentially, they are deeply rooted beliefs about yourself, the world and others. These beliefs influence how you navigate through the world, and shapes your perception of various situations. By understanding the origin of your core beliefs and addressing unhealed wounds, you may cultivate greater self-compassion and clarity regarding thought patterns. This approach leans more towards psychodynamic therapy, which is distinct from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as discussed in Part 2. Therapy is so unique to the individual. Therapists can integrate techniques from different modalities in order to best help you.

What is Acceptance?

Acceptance is acknowledging and embracing reality as it exists, rather than as we wish it to be. Acceptance does not mean agreement or approval; rather, it involves coming to terms with the uncontrollable aspects of life and choosing to release any emotional struggles or resistance associated with them.

Acceptance serves as a cornerstone of the therapeutic journey, starting well before you step into the therapy room (or login to the virtual space). At some point, you recognized that therapy might be helpful. This means that you may have accepted that a mental health professional can help you get better. Once engaged in therapy, acceptance can help you heal quicker and more effectively.

Acceptance of Core Beliefs

We cannot go back and change your past. What if I told you that accepting pain and difficulty is an integral part of moving forward? Take a moment to sit with your thoughts and feelings that come up.

In fact, acknowledging pain and difficulty is an integral part of moving forward. This does not diminish the value of therapy. Instead, it offers a more realistic perspective on how therapy works and can help you. While I wish I could wave a magic wand and erase your pain, unfortunately, that’s not possible. Pain is a reflection of your deep connections and attachments in life. To feel pain means that there is something so important and meaningful you care about. Therapy provides support in navigating through the discomfort, although it may not completely eliminate it. As you progress in healing, the intensity of the pain might lessen, but the past remains unchanged.

Acknowledging that your core beliefs developed due to your life circumstances is essential. Consider the belief “everyone is a liar”. You were not born with that belief; it developed gradually over time. Therefore, it is possible to unlearn old beliefs and relearn new, beneficial ones. It is important to note that embracing healthier core beliefs does not erase pain. The acceptance of your past and core beliefs can coexist with reshaping your life narrative.

Acceptance of Anxiety

Often, we attempt to get rid of our anxiety in ways that actually exacerbate it. While we may feel temporary relief, the anxiety often resurfaces stronger in the long run. Consider being trapped in quicksand: would you escape quicker by struggling to climb out or remaining still? Surprisingly, the latter is more effective. Similarly, accepting anxiety involves allowing it to exist without trying to eliminate it. It also recognizes that healing is a gradual process and some level of anxiety might persist (hopefully a healthy level that does not significantly interfere with your life). Anxious thoughts may start to decrease over time and become less threatening; however, eliminating them completely is not realistic. A therapist can help you to differentiate thoughts from facts, and help you to tolerate discomfort.

Acceptance of Discomfort

How does discomfort manifest for you physically? I can imagine it’s a feeling that you don’t like. I shared mindfulness techniques and coping skills in Part 1. As a reminder, these strategies won’t eliminate discomfort entirely and they cannot erase the distressing situation. However, they provide your mind and body with a moment to pause and reconnect with the present moment. This allows you to assess situations with greater clarity and respond accordingly. Mindfulness calms down your nervous system and gives your logical brain time to turn back on. When learning coping skills in therapy, I encourage you to go in with the expectation that they will calm you down temporarily to therefore address situations more effectively. Hopefully in time, the coping skills will have a longer lasting impact. I encourage practicing coping skills when you’re feeling regulated, as they’ll become more readily accessible when needed.

Therapy Suited for Your Mental Health Needs

Hopefully, this blog series provided you with more insight about anxiety treatment. If you or someone you know might benefit from therapy, please contact Symmetry Counseling at (312)578-9990 or visit https://www.symmetrycounseling.com/.

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