Measuring The Problem
In this post I will be using anxiety as the “problem” this technique can be used for. However if you are reading this and your concern is not about anxiety, for example depression, keep on reading as this technique will work on pretty much anything.
Many people who come to see me have struggled with their concerns and anxieties for such a long time, it feels normal. It can be difficult to notice if you have ever had good days and made progress.
However even in the worst cases, anxiety is not static. It changes hour to hour, day to day.
My first tip is to change your approach to how you measure the problem. You see if you are always asking yourself whether you are feeling anxious or not, that is a black and white question. Even if you are feeling a small amount of anxiety, it’s always there and the answer is inevitably yes.
So instead of looking for a yes or no answer, I want you to think of the in terms of a numerical scale. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being a very low, hardly noticeable level, 10 being the highest and most uncomfortable level of anxiety) how anxious do you feel?
What would need to change to bring it up a notch, for example from a 6 to a 7?
What would need to change to bring it down a notch, for example from a 6 to a 5?
Using the scale we can probe what will work to help you, and what may not. Using this technique can also help you track your progress and notice if there are any patterns that emerge throughout the day / week.
This also helps you set goals. My work is about helping people manage their problems and teach them how to overcome them, rather than try to banish the problem instantly (the magic wand mindset).
If I told someone with social anxiety to go out with the goal of trying not to think about feeling anxious, it wouldn’t work. However if I asked them to go out, notice how high the anxiety is on a scale of 1-10 and then use the other techniques we have discussed to bring it down a notch, for example from an 8/10 down to a 7 or 6, then that’s a goal to work on and one that is achievable.
If they are unable to bring the number down, it’s not in any way a failure as they will be able to give me precise feedback as to what happened, and what self talk and feelings got in the way. And with that feedback we can develop new strategies to try out.
And there is more! We can use this scale technique to measure, and boost good thoughts and feelings. So I would ask you to consider opposite thoughts and feelings.
The opposite of anxiety is generally a mix of comfort, calmness and relaxation (CCR). Let’s say you are measuring anxiety and you feel 8/10. Notice it’s not 10/10, there is a gap we can work with. Let’s say your CCR level is 2/10, what would need to change to bring it up to a 3 or 4?
Turning the anxiety (or any problem) down, and turning the comfort (or any solution), calmness and relaxation up is a method I have found works well. Give it it a try…