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Reducing Anxiety

Here are some thoughts on anxiety along with approaches to wash it out of your mind. Because anxiety can be a major trigger for most disregulated eaters, it’s vital that you learn to reduce anxiety, as less of it means less disregulated eating.

First, a concept mentioned by a Food and Feelings message board member whose therapist told her that FEAR equals Future Events Appearing Real. Although I’m not sure that’s what fear actually is, the acronym aptly describes anxiety. Anxiety happens internally, within your mind/body, generally having little or nothing to do with anything outside of that small space that you occupy on earth. When we’re anxious, we’re not in the present moment but are mentally in an anticipated one. Repeatedly determining what we’ll do in a future that seems more real than the present does no good. Why? Because we can only act in the present, and the fact that we can’t do now what we want to do later only makes us more anxious. Thus, anxiety breeds anxiety.

Second is how anxiety is reinforced by questions we ask ourselves and others about why things happen or, worse, why we’re anxious. Some questions have no answers. Most of the time we’re anxious, we don’t need to be because the anxiety isn’t about currently not being safe, but about a memory getting triggered when we weren’t safe. What I’m saying is that the “why” of anxiety often channels us into a dark tunnel. We think that if we keep asking ourselves why we’re anxious, we’ll have a eureka moment and feel okay. But the incessant questioning only sucks us more deeply into the tunnel.

Third, resist asking yourself a great many questions about your anxiety. Go find a real problem that you can solve now. Remember you can’t solve a problem that hasn’t happened yet. Sew a button, take out the overflowing trash, balance your checkbook, do something on your to do list, clean the kitchen floor, or change the oil in your car. These tasks address problems that can be dealt with now and doing them will siphon off the tension you’re experiencing as anxiety.

Wanting to lessen bodily tension is why you turn to food (or jump on the scale) when you’re anxious—because anxiety or, if you will, fear are emotions instructing us to do something to avoid a perceived mental or physical threat to self. When there is no real threat (when it’s only in your head), your mind/body focuses on anything as a threat, even if it isn’t one. So, to sum up, stop thinking about being anxious and decrease emotional tension by solving a problem that actually needs fixing now.