But what if I tell you that anxiety can be managed, reduced or even overcome and without struggle or having to confront it - The Feelgood Way?
I know, you're skeptical. I fully understand your doubts. It sounds too good to be true.
My professional training as a psychologist taught me the theory behind the traditional treatments for anxiety, but it was only my own experience of severe anxiety that gave me the chance to test out what really worked.
"OK, but you're an expert. How do I know this will work for me?"
I had panic attacks as a child, long before I trained as a psychologist. I also continued to have them even after I qualified. It was my knowledge of psychology that allowed me to work out what was happening to me and that is the information I am sharing with you and have shared with countless others in clinical practice.
But I still had to do what was required to overcome my anxieties just as anyone else has to.
I know that you are almost afraid to trust this approach as it sounds too good to be true. That's because we've been taught by our cultures and schooling that we have to work hard at things to succeed.
Overcoming anxiety is the exception! I've been there, done it! What I teach others to do is what I did for myself.
"But I feel that if I stop struggling to overcome my anxiety it, it will get bigger and overwhelm me!"
That's the mistake we all make. But in the case of anxiety, once we stop struggling it actually reduces.
When we struggle we are creating stress... tension... anxiety... so we are actually increasing the one thing we are trying to overcome!
Struggle is counter-productive! In this method struggle is BANNED.
"Sounds as if it will take ages to overcome my anxiety. I want to get better soon!"
One of the biggest reasons for failure to overcome anxiety is impatience. Everyone wants to get better NOW despite having probably spent many years acquiring the anxiety habits in the first place.
Learning any new skill takes time, patience and practice. Unlearning any habit takes patience and persistence. No-one becomes a champion athlete overnight and nobody would expect to. Likewise, if you really want to overcome or reduce your anxiety habits for good, you have to be prepared to just keep chipping away at it.
- Each day that you put this method into practice will lead to an improvement.
- You will eventually start to do these things without having to think about them.
- These new ways of being will slowly and surely replace your old anxiety habits.
- One day you will look back and realise that you no longer feel anxious like you once did.
Why does it have to be Self Help?
Anxiety isn't a virus or something that comes over you by chance! We teach ourselves to have it although without meaning to. But a habit is what it is and, like any other habit you might want to get rid of, it has to be done by you.
An expert can only teach you about it and show you the path to take to overcome it. The doing has to be done by you, yourself.
To overcome anxiety, self help is the only way whatever form the anxiety takes.
If self help is the answer to anxiety, what did I offer those who came to me for treatment?
Instead of letting them believe that simply coming to see me on a regular basis would somehow magically cure their anxiety issues, I made them aware of the truth.
The truth that I would do everything in my power to teach them to understand how their anxiety developed and what to do to unlearn it again. The truth that I would teach them techniques to apply at various stages of their journey towards improvement or recovery and would support them every step of the way. BUT....
I couldn't do it for them because they were the only ones with the power to control their thoughts!
There were some who didn't want to hear this. They came expecting a magic solution to their problems, almost as if I'd have a magic wand which I might wave over them and send them away cured.
They would leave, disillusioned, and go and find a different therapist in the hope of getting the magic wand elsewhere.
Sometimes they would return months or years later having come to terms with the fact that there was no magic wand and ready to give self help the Feelgood Way a go.
Ok, so it was my professional understanding that helped me work out what was going on in the first place and to come up with a solution. But then putting it into practice was down to 'me-the-sufferer', not 'me-the-psychologist'. Nobody could do it for me, I just had to help myself.
And it's important to realise that YOU, the sufferer, are the only one who actually has the means to overcoming your anxiety.
So I first taught patients to understand the mechanism behind their anxieties so that the solution, which only they could carry out, made sense to them. Understanding it motivated them to do what was needed.
If someone expected me to make them better it got in the way. Instead of doing what they needed to do, the sufferer would just wait for me to create magic that suddenly made them better. They would wait for ever.
The most important part of overcoming any anxiety problem is in first understanding how it comes about.
Nobody knowingly or deliberately develops an anxiety habit.
But a habit is what it is and, like any other habit you might want to get rid of, it has to be done by you.
That's why an expert can only teach you about it and show you the path to take to overcome it. The doing has to be done by you, yourself.
My Approach to Self Help for Overcoming Anxiety
There are three stages to this:
Many of the treatment approaches used by professionals focus on telling you what to do about your anxiety. They show you coping techniques such as breathing exercises, ways to rationalise your thoughts, to challenge your fears... None of which feel good to do at the time when you find yourself doing battle with your anxiety symptoms, do they?
Rarely do they go back to the beginning and teach understanding of it and why it developed in the first place. Why does your body start creating a response, which would be perfectly acceptable if the danger were real, under circumstances which other people just take in their stride?
Only by knowing and understanding where anxiety comes from can you really see how and why you need to do what needs doing to overcome it.
When there's no true understanding, there's no real motivation for putting the approach into practice.
Next you need to learn various techniques to apply when overcoming your anxieties. These techniques need to be learnt before attempting to apply them to anxiety itself. These techniques are skills. A skill needs to be perfected so it can be done almost without thinking in order to be useful.
Too many treatment approaches ask you to develop these skills whilst actually trying to apply them to situations in which you feel anxious. That's often too much to ask. Skills need to be perfected first and then applied.
This is where you apply the various skills learnt to unwanted anxiety habits. Because you now understand exactly why you are doing this and the skills come easily, the effort required is minimal. There's no need to struggle.