Mental Health Blog

The Anxiety Coping Skill You Didn’t Know You Needed

Posted by Makenna Clements on

 

One of the best things you can do for your anxiety is remind it two things can be true at the same time- even things which seem inherently contradictory. 

For example, you can be completely terrified of something, and strong enough to face it. You can have absolutely no idea what the outcome of a major life choice will be or how something is going to go, and tolerate the discomfort of the uncertainty (and still be okay even if things don’t turn out according to plan). 

I call this the “And” Principle- a concept rooted in dialectical behavior therapy, an approach which emphasizes the power of embracing two seemingly oppositional truths and their ability to co-exist. Instead of trying to fight against the reality of a situation by trying to control all possible outcomes or find creative ways to avoid it (which serves to only further our anxiety in most cases), the idea is to acknowledge there is inherent risk to all things in life, we can't predict the future or prevent all bad things from happening, but we can prepare ourselves to a reasonable degree and trust ourselves to deal with what comes next. 

Tapping into this skill requires the use of our “Wise Mind”- the happy-medium between the more emotional and more rational parts of us. Much like other anxiety coping skills we may take for granted- such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and grounding exercises- it can be tempting to give up after attempting it a time or two. I chalk this up to anxiety’s urgency to want to “fix” whatever situation is causing us discomfort right away. 

The “And” Principal works by slowing our anxiety down, acknowledging the reality of what is (including what is not within our control), and reminding us of our capacity to work through it. 

It’s a skill much like any other, so it takes practice and repetition to build this particular muscle. When you do, it can be incredibly freeing.

 

Christian Makenna Clements is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #111159.

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