In those distant, pre-digital days of yore, when an annoying commercial came on the tube, we simply changed the channel. It’s getting harder these days to avoid ads, but the principle remains true: when we don’t like what’s on, we can change the channel.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 18% of Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. Other experts put this number at over 30%, due to the number of undiagnosed and misdiagnosed cases.
But when we experience anxiety, isn’t the tendency to tune into the problem?
“Why won’t that jerk get out of the passing lane?” “How long does it take to pour a cup of coffee?” When we fixate on what’s wrong, we not only make ourselves unpleasant to be around; we can make it very unpleasant to be around ourselves.
Kinda feels good in the moment, though, doesn’t it? But over time, entertaining our anxieties can negatively impact our health and quality of life. So consider this simple alternative:
If you don’t like what’s on in your head, change the channel.
Sure, that jerk might be causing a traffic jam, but grinding your guts over it isn’t going to get you home any sooner. And sure, maybe it is taking that bedraggled barista an eon to pour your cup of morning Joe, but fixating on it isn’t going to make him go any faster.
Once you identify the source of your anxiety, take a deep breath and tell yourself, “I’m not going to think about that right now.” You think about something else entirely. You change the channel. When your mind returns to the source of anxiety, be patient with yourself and again say, “I’m not going to think about that right now.” Over time, with patience and mindfulness, you can actually retrain your brain to change the channel automatically!
So much of what causes anxiety in our lives can’t be changed.
So change what you can.