Conscious Questioning for Anxiety
Anxiety has a purpose and a function, and it’s a really important one.
Anxiety helps you prepare for the future, and it acts as your task-completion and deadline-focused emotion.
Anxiety is an action-focused emotion, so expressing it when it’s intense can be pretty tricky — it can run you in five different directions at once.
However, repressing anxiety isn’t a very good choice, because anxiety will keep bubbling up — it has tasks to complete!
Anxiety can feel overwhelming or confusing, so I developed a focused Empathic Mindfulness practice for anxiety called Conscious Questioning for Anxiety. It’s from my book Embracing Anxiety.
Three steps to support your emotions
When any of your emotions are intense, it’s very tempting to turn away and ignore them, but you can make significant changes if you take three steps:
- Name your emotion with precision.
- Engage with your emotion so that it can do its proper work and then step back naturally (because you’ve completed the correct action for that emotion).
- Ask for help if your emotion won’t respond to you or step back.
The simple act of naming your emotions can help you calm and soothe yourself. With anxiety, these calming steps are very important.
The healing questions for anxiety are: What brought this feeling forward? and What truly needs to be done?
You can simply say: “Okay, I’m anxious, and that means something needs to get done. Now, what truly needs to be done?” This simple step will help you calm and focus yourself, and organize your thoughts.
In my Conscious Questioning for Anxiety practice, you turn toward your anxiety and identify each of the issues it’s responding to so that you can organize all of your tasks, concerns, and ideas.
This practice will help you ground and focus yourself again
You can start this practice by asking yourself (out loud) about each of the things that truly need to get done.
The word truly is key, because anxiety is so forward-focused that it could send you into a flurry of activity that doesn’t actually get you anywhere.
Your anxiety brings you a great deal of energy to help you get things done, but it needs your help to organize and focus itself.
It’s also very helpful to write things down. Writing is a way to physically express your anxieties, become aware of them, and organize them intentionally.
You could create a bullet-pointed list, or you could create a more flowing type of mind map, whichever works best for you. And here’s the interesting thing: Simply voicing or writing down your anxieties will help your anxiety step back and focus itself.
Speaking or writing out your anxieties is an emotionally intelligent action that helps your anxiety organize and focus itself so that you can settle yourself again.
With this quick and focused writing practice, you can access the gifts of your anxiety, identify any upcoming tasks, organize everything you need to do to complete those tasks, and support yourself and your anxiety.
This Conscious Questioning practice can help you support your anxiety’s specific genius, which is to help you complete your tasks and meet your deadlines with focus and skill.
How to Consciously Question Your Anxiety
- Begin your Conscious Questioning session with a clear statement such as: “Okay, I’m consciously questioning my anxiety now.”
- Ask your anxiety what truly needs to be done right now? Remember to write down the answers!
If you need some support, here are some helpful questions you might ask:
- Have I achieved or completed something similar in the past?
- What are my strengths and resources?
- Do I need more information?
- Can I delegate any tasks?
- Can I contact (or read about) someone who has successfully done this thing?
- Are there any upcoming deadlines?
- Is there anything I’ve overlooked?
- Is anything unfinished?
- What do I need to do to prepare?
- What is one small task I can complete right now?
- Why is this important?
When you feel done, end your Conscious Questioning session with a clear statement such as, “Thanks anxiety! I’m done now.”
When you’re done, do some of the tasks that you and your anxiety have identified, and also do something that’s fun, grounding, or soothing.
Take good care of yourself, and remember that anxiety is always looking out for you and trying to help you!
Also, this motto from our Dynamic Emotional Integration® community may be helpful to know:
There’s always enough time for every important thing.
Excerpted from Embracing Anxiety: How to Access the Genius of This Vital Emotion by Karla McLaren, M.Ed.
Note: If you do what you can to address your anxiety, and it doesn’t respond to you, please reach out for help from a counselor or healthcare provider. Sometimes, especially with a very active emotion like anxiety, we all need support to bring our emotions back into balance.