My name is Sydney and I am a worrywart by nature.I’ve inherited many traits from my mother—some wonderful, others unfavorable, but this one…unforgivable. Some of my worries were rational and appropriate, like anxiety for an upcoming exam. Others were completely irrational and were perpetuated by my self-critical brain, like beating myself up after receiving a C in algebra and feeling like I wasn’t smart enough. I lived in perpetual fear and anxiety until I started studying clinical psychology in graduate school. How I wish past me knew then what present me knows now.
Graduate school supplied me with knowledge of countless theories and techniques to use in the therapy room but I quickly realized that they were kind of useless to me in the presence of all of my anxiety. My brain couldn’t access them because all of its energy seemed to be going towards attempting to untie the anxiety knot in my stomach, fueled my monster thoughts like “You’re going to mess this up.” I realized that before I could begin to offer these techniques to others, I would need to give them a try myself first.
Self-Compassion & Anxiety
There are a multitude of ways to try reducing anxiety, what works for one person might not work for another. For me, it was all about self-compassion and mindfulness. I remembered learning about it in class and really resonating with the tenets but then quickly shoving it aside as a new theory was being presented and also, I wasn’t big on meditations. I went back to the binder, flipped through the pages, and then decided to implement self-compassion and mindfulness into my life in a way that made sense for me. I didn’t sit down and listen to guided mediations…I didn’t journal about my life…but instead, I made a sticky-note of 3 things to remind myself when I was starting to go down my anxiety spiral:
- This is a moment of suffering
- Suffering is a part of life
- May I be kind to myself
Sound familiar? This is an exercise that Kristen Neff titled, “A Self-Compassion Break.” She postulates that each reminder represents the 3 aspects of self-compassion: mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness.
Mindfulness teaches us to notice our thoughts and feelings as they are, free of judgment; common humanity comforts us, by reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles; and self-kindness relieves us, giving us the permission to be imperfect and to make mistakes.
Approaching my self-critical voice with these three statements was life changing. Instead of adding to my anxiety by being mean to myself, I abated it by giving myself the same kind words that I would give others. I’m still a worrywart…that doesn’t really just go away but I worry a lot less and feel more in control of it. In a world where there’s so much chaos, I’ve found that it can be really valuable to be able to identify the things that don’t matter or that don’t serve us and to be able to let them go.
If you are struggling with anxiety and need someone to talk to, schedule an appointment here.