How to Stop Anxiety and Depression
Once you get caught up in an anxiety or depressive spiral, life becomes a disoriented kaleidoscope of doubts, fears, and negatives. From a Self-Coaching perspective, it’s possible to infuse a sense of composure by looking at your anxiety or depression, not as mental illnesses, but as “habits.” Whereas the concept of “mental illness” can evoke an unsettled feeling of victimization, the concept of habits is more familiar and less threatening. We all know about habits–habits are learned and habits can be broken. I realize at first blush that this approach may sound rather simplistic, but think about it for a moment. If anxiety and depression are, in fact, habits fueled by insecurity-driven thinking, then the prescription is straight forward: How do I break the habits that feed and fertilize my problems? Once habituated, insecurity-driven thinking begins to systematically erode your confidence, self-trust, attitude, and even your chemistry.
A Self-Coaching approach begins by teaching you to separate healthy from contaminated, insecure thinking. Think of it this way. If, for example, you go out on your patio to read the paper and you notice a pigeon. You throw it a few crumbs and go on reading. Next day you notice two or three pigeons and you again throw out some crumbs. By the end of the week there are so many pigeons you can’t get to your patio. If you were to ask me what to do, I would respond: “STOP feeding the pigeons!” Symptoms of anxiety, depression, panic, phobias, and insecure thinking are your pigeons: you must find out how you’re feeding and keeping these problems alive. For any habit to persist, it must be fed. Likewise, learn to starve a habit and it will begin to wilt.
In my books, I use a technique called Self-Talk to help you learn to starve the insecure doubts, fears, and negatives that feed anxiety and depression. When it comes to liberating yourself from anxiety or depression, positive thinking alone is only 50% of the battle. You need to go the distance, incorporating the other 50%: positively believing and trusting. Insecurity thrives on fear and distrust, learning to risk believing in yourself and in life is truly the end game of suffering.
It’s important to understand, not only the impact that insecurity has on your anxiety and depression, but also how insecurity invariably leads to a life of control. No one escapes some insecurity; it’s part of the human condition. When you were young and confronted with some insecurity or vulnerability, what did you do? You responded in any way you could (considering your age) with some attempt to gain control and not feel so helpless. Perhaps you pouted or threw a tantrum or worried; whatever you did, you were only trying to gain control over a vulnerable life situation where you felt threatened. Over time, you developed patterns/habits designed to control life and ostensibly afford you with some modicum of comfort. Unfortunately, there’s a price to pay for rigidly trying to control life.
Worry is perhaps the most common example of a control pattern/habit. You worry because you’re trying to anticipate what’s coming around that corner before it reaches you. This way you can be braced and ready (since you’ve lost self-confidence and trust, being braced is all that’s left to help you feel safe and in control). Doesn’t sound so bad on the surface, but keep in mind that worry, rumination, avoidance, etc., all require energy and vigilance, which eventually erode the quality of your life by depleting you both emotionally as well as chemically. Anxiety and depression are the end result of a life of depletion and control. Bottom line: once you lose all trust and confidence in handling life spontaneously with self trust, the only thing left is to frantically try to control life. And since a controlled life is a life of constant maintenance, effort, and self-doubt, the outcome is predictable: anxiety, worry, panic, or depression.
A word on medication. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can be visualized as a kind of current that presses against you. Sometimes the current is so strong that you can’t muster up the energy and capacity for doing the work that is essential in overcoming these problems. With severe anxiety and depression it’s a good idea to consider the use of medication (as well as face-to-face contact with a mental health professional) as a means of slowing down this current before employing a program such as Self-Coaching. The appropriate use of medication can therefore be seen as a therapy facilitator. When the “current” of anxiety or depression becomes too strong, it’s hard–if not impossible–to make progress. Just keep in mind that the motor that generates anxiety and depression is insecurity-driven thinking. Once you liberate yourself from reflexive insecurity, you begin to shut down the chronic depletion allowing your psyche and your body to naturally replenish itself.