A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the Worry Train, a mental locomotive that holds so many of us captive during waking hours. Perhaps we find it so alluring because sometimes a little worry can be helpful.
Predictions about Frankenstorm prompted some of my neighbors to prepare generators for duty, while others stocked up on bottled water and non-perishable food. Most of us have flashlights and extra batteries handy. And if our worry is not excessive – meaning we haven’t stepped on the Worry Train – we go back to enjoying life with the electrical power we possess in the present moment…
When worry becomes excessive, anxiety often becomes our constant companion, and our lives change…
When Anxiety Becomes Mental Storm
Similar to hurricanes in the real world, anxiety creates a mental storm from which escape is elusive. The mental storm gains power as erroneous weather reports forecast warnings at high volume about our safety and security. Anxiety huffs and puffs and we experience its effects in body, mind, and behavior. So the forecasts of our mental storm feel truly real in our experience…
Anxiety’s Forecasts are False
But here’s the kicker: anxiety’s forecasts are notoriously false.
For example, anxiety convinces some of us that the standards to join any group are super high, while the criteria to get booted out are pretty low. So we avoid most social interactions based on a false forecast.
For others, anxiety daily fills our minds with intrusive worrisome chatter predicting troubling outcomes for us and those we love. This false forecast is mental noise, but we treat it as an accurate signal.
Sometimes anxiety sets up strict rules for us to follow. For example, we have to check the door lock 10 times before we can go to bed at night. This false forecast suggests that something terrible will happen if we don’t keep the rule.
Other times anxiety convinces us that we’re having a heart attack, or that we’ll stop breathing; then at the ER, we learn that we’ve had a panic attack. This false forecast predicted a life and death event that never occurred.
Dealing with the Mental Storm
As I look out my window right now, the wind is picking up and trees are swaying. We can’t control Frankenstorm, but what about our mental storms? A first step towards dealing with them may be to think of anxiety as a mental storm with false forecasts. A second step may be to contact a therapist who can help us find healthy ways to deal with anxiety.
Click here for more information on Anxiety Treatment.