The Simplest Trick that Made the Biggest Difference for My Anxiety

It was right in front of me the whole time...
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My therapist recently shared a trick with me for dealing with anxiety that sounded so obvious, I couldn't believe I'd never thought of it before. In retrospect, I realize I may have missed it because it was right there in front of me and so simple. The idea is this: 

Any time you're worried about something and it ends up going better than you anticipated, don't just brush it off. Take a moment afterwards to acknowledge how well the thing went, so that next time you can say, "I don't have to be so nervous about that [flight / scary talk with my boss / hard conversation] because last time it went okay."

It sounded too easy to be true, so I pressed my therapist if he really thought it would make a difference and he answered, "I don't think it will make a difference—clinical studies prove it does." Pausing to reflect on how well something went reinforces the idea that it will go okay next time, too. I hadn't even considered something so small could make such a large impact in how I handle anxiety, but it has—and I've seen it work for Sloan, too.

Because Sloan also gets anxious (who knows where she gets that from?!), I've already started incorporating this approach how we talk about her fears. Whether it's about going to the doctor or trying out a new music class, once we leave, I ask her how she's doing. Since she inevitably is in a lot better spirits than when we arrived, I like calling it to her attention. And even at three-years-old, she's begun making those positive statements, completely unprompted. "See mama?! I didn't even have to be scared!" 

My hope is that the more bumpy flights I survive and Sloan's doctors appointments that go off without a hitch, I'll continue to reinforce - to both of us - that there wasn't anything to worry about.

Because 99% of the time, I've found it's always better than I think it's going to be.