While many factors contribute to anxiety, it can be distilled down to two primary parts:
(1) What you don't know
(2) What you can't control
Written out as an equation, it looks like this:
Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness
Chris Conley, author of Emotional Equations, shows how applying this formula can help put anxiety into perspective.
Here's how it works. Create an Anxiety Balance Sheet using these 4 steps:
1. Get a pen and a blank piece of paper
2. Divide it into 4 columns with:
3. Now, spend a few minutes filling in each of the columns
Take a good look at Column 2. Is there anything on the list that you don't know but could learn? For instance, if you are anxious about your performance at work, remove the mystery. Set up an appointment to meet with your boss to discuss it.
Next, take a look at Column 3. The items on that list might feel overwhelming but is there anything that you might have some control over? For instance, you may not be able to control the number of emails you receive each day but you can decide how frequently you will check them.
Hopefully, this exercise will help you realize that there are things you do know (Column 1) and that there are things you can control (Column 3).
There is a lot that we don't know and don't have any control over. However, there is also a lot that we can know and that we do have power over.
Bottom line: Eliminating anxiety altogether is not realistic but you can dial it down using this strategy.
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