Thanksgiving is this week; what are you feeling thankful for? If you gather with your loved ones every Thanksgiving, you may have a tradition of going around the table and naming your gratitude. You may not have been able to gather last year, given the state of the world. And perhaps you aren’t able to do so again this year. But chances are, you’ve had a thought cross your mind inspired by this upcoming holiday, wondering what you are thankful for. It is a topic that comes up for patients time and time again; just ask any practitioner who offers anxiety therapy in LA.
If you’re trying to think of something and coming up empty, don’t be too hard on yourself. We have spent more than a year and a half in a global health crisis that has impacted our
years-long economic crisis and unemployment. Recent changes may continue to exacerbate stress as we grapple with decisions about vaccinating our children, returning to work, switching careers, or moving locations entirely for more space or more economic opportunity. All of these issues are the perfect breeding ground for fear. Whether we can name specific things that scare us or are burdened with a general sense of anxiety and dis-ease, we have probably grappled with worry about our present and future selves more than once in 2021. The sensation of fear can be suffocating and make the idea of being grateful seem like an impossible task.
1. What are you afraid of?
Literally. What is it that scares you; can you name it? At times, it is hard to confront our fears because we don’t even know what we are truly afraid of. We may feel the
anxiety on the surface, but we can’t name what the core fear may be. We may find ourselves worrying and ruminating, but unable to explain what is so bad about any of the worries coming through. This adds more anxiety to the feelings we are already experiencing, as we struggle to validate ourselves and to come up with a solution to the situation we are in.
We may avoid asking for help until we feel like we can perfectly articulate our problem instead of seeking these answers through support like anxiety counseling. This allows our fear to grow and breed new fear within us.
2. You don’t know how to tolerate fear:
We as humans will do anything to avoid feeling fear, even if it means losing out on great opportunities. Did you know that it has been proven that people will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure? When we value avoiding pain over gaining pleasure, then our mind’s mission becomes to fear discomfort and avoid it at all costs. This creates a bigger problem, as we never put ourselves in situations where we learn to face our fears and tolerate our discomfort. You might think that this natural response means you shouldn’t try to overcome your instinct to avoid fear, but that is not true. You owe it to yourself to confront the fears you can, thereby building a tolerance to fear and discomfort.
3. You give fear too much value and meaning:
We are taught that if we are not fearful and don’t have our guards up, we will be irresponsible and careless. Unfortunately, living in a state of fear and caution stifles our lives beyond reason. I once read this quote online written by Erma Bombeck that said, “Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” We think worrying, thinking about and planning for the worst-case scenario, and being on guard 24/7 is somehow going to make us more prepared for the future. Therefore, the idea of bringing our attention to the present moment and feeling the joy of the present moment feels like we are somehow making ourselves more vulnerable to some unknowable future attack.
Being an anxiety therapist in Woodland Hills, I talk to people every day who are scared of or nervous about something. A little bit of fear is natural, and it’s often just good common sense to have some. But when we are too afraid to see what is good in our lives and the world, we aren’t able to see the full picture of what our lives have to offer.
You might wonder how you can deal with your fear when some of your fear is wrapped up in whether or not it’s safe to leave the house. There are options, including my practice, for online therapy in Los Angeles; you have the choice to access the professional support you need. While you do the work to confront your fears, you can support yourself through gratitude and mindfulness.
1. Feel the fear and do it anyway:
We are often focused on the result and measure our success solely based on the outcome. This can cause us to get caught up in our heads about our plans; we may try to choose “the perfect timing” or wait until we think we have all the pieces in place. This can mean that we spend time delaying pursuing what we want, living in an imagined future as we worry about all the possible outcomes. Gratitude comes from being present in the moment, which we can achieve by recognizing and celebrating our efforts. Gratitude can come from having the courage to do something we are afraid of instead of waiting for ourselves not to be afraid.
To explore this gratitude, we have to take steps to do what scares us. This often means starting small, such as walking on an elevated platform if you’re afraid of heights. Approaching a task like this can involve planning: bring a friend who is not scared of heights but is supportive and empathetic about your fear. Visualize why you are trying to get over this fear and talk about it. It could be something you are doing to navigate daily life with greater ease, and that is a great reason to do so! But it might also be because you want to check out some hiking spots that you have seen beautiful photos of or visit a gallery or museum that is elevated in some way. Maybe there’s a restaurant with a rooftop patio with amazing views of the city that you’d like to go to with your friends. When you are taking on any sort of fear, come up with as many reasons why you should overcome it as possible, no matter how small or minute the reason might seem. This doesn’t mean you spend a ton of time thinking about why you want to do it and never get down to it; once you’ve sorted your reasoning out and enlisted a buddy, the next step is to just Do The Thing. After each attempt, you can take some time to revisit why you want to work through this fear and what you envision being on the other side of it. Take a moment to be grateful for what progress you accomplished, and dive back in.
2. Practice Mindfulness by bringing your attention to the present moment:
Gratitude is in the here and the now. Anxiety and fear live in the past or the future.
Along with being in the present, mindfulness is about being aware of our experiences. Mindfulness is being aware of the calm or the peace and being aware and
compassionate about other uncomfortable emotions, such as sadness, loneliness, or resentment. Mindfulness is about recognizing your emotions as they are, and not just the “fun” ones.
It is only when we are experiencing events in real-time that we can be grateful for them or be thankful for what they are not. Sometimes, going through fear can bring into focus the positive aspects of our lives that we take for granted. You can be grateful, if your usual coffee shop has a longer line than usual today, that it’s not always like that. By remaining in the moment of reflection about the lineup, rather than worrying over getting to your next appointment in time, you are able to see the event for what it is: a rare inconvenience.
The more you focus on gratitude in the present moment, the less room there is in your thoughts for fears and worries. To remain present, focus on your five senses, and name something you can hear, see, smell, taste, and touch, if possible. Touch your sleeve if you need to. Pop a mint in your mouth. Odds are, when you seek items with which to ground yourself in the present moment, you’ll find something to be grateful for at the same time. If you can see your best friend, smell your favorite bakery’s croissants, or hear a song you love, you will realize it when you do a sensory check.
3. Remember that gratitude makes you stronger, not weaker:
I am not going to tell you just to keep a gratitude journal because it has been said a million times. Really, just go to Amazon and write in the search bar “gratitude journal,” and you will have a plethora of options to pick from. So, while I do hope you begin to keep a gratitude journal, let’s not waste time on how to do that. Instead, let’s talk about our attitudes and opinions about keeping a gratitude journal.
Remember, we talked about this idea that if we let go of our fear and worrying, we think we are more exposed or vulnerable to more harm. Along with this false thinking, you may then also assume that having a grateful heart and mind will make you “soft,” “weak,” or “gullible.” In order to take this blog and apply it to any part of your life in any shape or form, you will have to let go of these wrong narratives about gratitude. Think about times in your life when you feel happy and confident, and strong. Do you also feel weak or vulnerable? Of course not. Knowing what you are grateful for is like refilling your reserve of positivity; a positive outlook is vital when taking on challenges and problem-solving.
Gratitude practice is like keeping your cup full – you know all too well that you can not pour from an empty cup. Taking stock of the things in life you are thankful for is like taking stock of your ability to pursue your goals, take care of yourself, support your loved ones, and build your future. When we seek out things to be grateful for, we become better at turning problems or obstacles into opportunities. I know that sounds cliché, but it has merit. In a mindset of gratitude, we are able to more easily come to terms with mishaps, becoming stronger as we learn from these incidents. That doesn’t mean that every bad thing that happens to us will stop hurting or bothering us; we simply get better at processing the bad and finding the good.
When we take the time to be grateful on a regular basis, we begin to paint our lives in a better light overall. When a new opportunity presents itself, we are bolstered by our conscious knowledge of all that has gone right for us lately and are better able to overcome any fears or reservations we have about giving something new a try. By doing so, we further reinforce that we are able to push ourselves. We might not always succeed or achieve what we’d like to, but we bounce back from these setbacks. Because we have the innate knowledge that there is a lot of good in our lives, we lose focus of the bad more easily and move on to the next thing. This doesn’t mean we run around in denial of negative incidents, unhealthy habits, or potential dangers. It means we don’t let these factors prevent us from living our best lives, chasing after our goals, trying new things, and building meaningful relationships. In these times, there is plenty to fear. But that is only because we have so much good to lose. Savoring what is good and healthy and happy about our lives now is the key to keeping those things alive, even in the face of what scares us most.
Other Services at Embracing You Therapy
Here at Embracing You Therapy, we invite you to explore with us how life would be different if you had more control over your thoughts and emotions, and we invite you to consider that it is possible to accept things just as they are, embracing imperfections to create a gentler place for calm in your life.
Let’s learn what drives your unique perspective on anxiety and stress. Then, let’s find the tools-your unique tools-that help you respond to life in a healthy, calm way. Contact us today for your complimentary 15-minute phone consultation with one of our Client Care Coordinators.
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