What do you do when you “fail” at an exposure, or when you have a particularly difficult anxiety day and wind up escaping back to your “safe zone”?I can tell you what you should NOT do.You should NOT just sit home and recount the story of how horrible it was and how you failed and how upset you are.That is sending the wrong story and signals to you brain.
Realize what you did wrong.
Think about what would have been a better course of action.
DO. IT. AGAIN.IMMEDIATELY.
Turning a “fail” into a “win” is easier than you think. Do not miss the opportunity to turn things around because you CAN and it will matter in the overall scheme of your recovery progress.
Today I’m joined by my friend Holly to talk about common misconceptions and mistakes surrounding exposure. Many people are unaware of the true nature of exposure and how it actually works as part of the anxiety recovery process. Here are the highlights:
1. Exposure is not just “doing things” or “going places”.
2. Exposure is about how you FEEL and how you react to how you feel. Its not really about where you are or what you’re doing.
3. Exposure works when you expose yourself to the thing you fear. In this case, you do not fear the car or the highway or the family reunion. You fear panic and anxiety and fear itself. Your goal is to feel those things in a productive way – without bracing or fighting or resisting or escaping. Your goal is to feel anxiety, fear and panic while doing NOTHING in response.
4. Exposure can happen anywhere. If you are experiencing panic attacks even in your own house, then you can work on that the same way you would work on trying to learn to drive on the highway again.
5. Effective exposure isn’t random or sporadic. Effective exposure involves planned, repeated, consistent, incrementally increasing sessions. Sadly, we can learn to be afraid instantly. It takes time and repetition to unlearn that.
6. Effective exposure involves STAYING in the uncomfortable feelings. Ending the session or running back to your “safe zone” when afraid and uncomfortable isn’t effective. You must stay in that situation, even if its only for 30 seconds, before exiting. You must increase the time you spend in that situation methodically and consistently. This is how exposure works best.
You’ve been doing the work. You’ve been working the process. You’re facing your fears and learning not to be afraid of how you feel. You’re no longer crippled by panic, fear and anxiety. One day you find that that familiar fear and anxiety is missing. Is this what it feels like to feel OK? What am I supposed to do with this? Where’s the anxiety? Should I be happy now? What if it comes back and puts me back to square one?
These are questions I hear all the time from people that have reached the point where they’re having anxiety free moments. Today my friend Joe and I discuss this issue and how he’s dealing with it. We talk about not continually scanning and assessing your state, why you can’t go back to square one if you’ve gone THROUGH the fear, and what feeling “OK” looks like in the real world. Thanks again to Joe for taking the time.
I was joined again by my old friend Joe Ryan as we talk about issues of self-esteem, confidence and competency as they relate to recovery from trauma, pain, anxiety, panic and other related problems. Sometimes those ingrained feelings of incompetency and a lack of confidence can be obstacles that keep you from even starting down the road to recovery. Joe describes his experience with those feelings and how he had to face them to gradually teach himself to have a sense of competence and confidence. Thanks to Joe for taking the time to share with us today!