Increase Certainty. Reduce Anxiety.

Anxiety. Worry. Apprehension. Fretful. Tense. Angst. Trepidation. Nervousness. Disquiet. Fear.

Just a few of the synonyms used to explain the feeling of anxiety. None of which, if you ask me and I suspect anybody else who has personally battled with anxiety, really do any justice in describing what it actually feels like. If I had to write the words that, for me, most accurately describe anxiety I would use words such as; panic, overwhelm, hopeless, immobilised, powerless, depressed, isolated, lonely, fragile, raw and to round it off; scared. I would say that anxiety makes you feel incredibly scared.

And that emotion, that particular feeling is perhaps the most key emotion to identify, if you want to overcome feelings of anxiousness. Fear is the root of anxiety. More specifically, fear of the unknown, fear of not being in control, fear of not knowing the outcome. When something happens to us, or around us, that makes us feel out of control or uncertain – we feel afraid and then we feel anxious.

Think about it, the last time that you felt strong feelings of anxiety – what had just happened? A phone call you weren’t expecting? An email with bad news? A task you were working on that went wrong? Something unexpected and unanticipated has happened. It goes against my plans and expectations for what my next few hours/day will look like, and anxious feelings start to flow because my certainty has gone. I feel uncertain.

And so, very simply, in order to reduce those anxious feelings, you need to increase the certainty. I am going to share with you two questioning tools that I regularly use with my coaching clients, with great success. They are short and simple, yet bring great breakthrough.

  1. What’s the worst that can happen?
  1. What’s the plan?

When uncertainty comes pressing its unwelcome agenda in our faces what often happens is that those immediate feelings of fear and anxiousness cause us to spiral in our thinking. So we do not respond just to the one thing that has changed, in our subconscious we have leapt hours, weeks, months or even years ahead, picturing some terrible outcome which triggers heightened feelings of fear and anxiousness and so when we react we are reacting to the ‘perceived’ thing that has happened and not to the thing in the present.

And so one of the things you can do to deescalate those emotions and regain certainity is to allow yourself to ‘go there’. Instead of feeling fear because you have unknowingly fast forwarded and pictured an outcome, intentionally as yourself what is the worst thing you are picturing as the outcome here. What is the worst that can happen? In doing this you begin to take the fear out of it as you allow yourself to picture it and bring it into the rational part of your thinking.

When you have done that, you then fully bring it into the rational part of your thinking by establishing the plan for how you tackle that worst case scenario. You work out, if the worst really did happen, then what would you do? How would you react? How would you overcome? What you find is that you do indeed have a plan. Which means you have certainty. And you feel back in control. And the anxiety levels fade.

When we understand that anxiety is not something that we are – it is something that we feel (this is a whole other blog post for an other day) it enables us to separate ourselves from the emotions, to identify what has triggered those emotions, see what the fear is, and then plan for how we overcome it. You get to be powerful and in control of you, you get to choose the outcome, and you get to reduce your anxiety by increasing your certainty.

I’d love to hear how you get on with these questions, and if you need any help with applying these questions in your own circumstances I’d love to help; please get in touch.