This one simple question can be incredibly powerful. It can elicit significant self-exploration and change.

If you struggle with anxiety, you know how difficult it is to cope with day-to-day activities. You often feel irritable, have trouble concentrating, experience restlessness, or have trouble falling asleep. Worries and fears are impacting your ability to accomplish basic tasks and live a meaningful life. Stressors are preventing you from doing what you want and need to do.

Maybe you are constantly making up excuses to avoid social outings with friends. Or maybe you are taking a couple hours to get ready for dinner because you can’t decide what to wear. Maybe you are procrastinating your homework. Or maybe you are re-reading that email to your boss over and over until it feels just right. Whatever the situation, you’re creating wasted time. You’re closing the door on activities that bring you pleasure. You’re negatively impacting your mood.

So consider the question, “What is my anxiety preventing me from doing?”

There are many ways to go about answering this question. First, you can think it through on your own and journal your thoughts. This is a great means of self-reflection. Additionally, you can discuss it with a person in your support network. This allows for new perspective and it can also be used as a way to build intimacy and connection by exposing your vulnerabilities. Further, you can explore and process this question with a licensed mental health professional. This can prompt a deeper understanding and discovery about your anxiety, as well as establish a starting point for identifying short-term and long-term goals.

However, asking and answering this question will not rid you of your anxiety. You will not wake up tomorrow with the ability to pursue those tasks that had previously been overwhelming. Change and growth happen gradually, when one is willing to engage in self-reflection, acknowledge personal challenges, seek out support, and identify specific action steps to implement on a regular basis. The good news… you are on your way!

For my self-reflectors:

Think about your past – What situations did you tend to avoid on a regular basis? What goals did you fail to accomplish?

Consider the present – What does anxiety feel like in your body? What does it sound like in your head? What actions do you refrain from taking because of anxiety? What actions take you longer than necessary to complete?

Now think about your future – Envision a life filled with drive, motivation, and a sense of fulfillment. What activities do you want to add to your life? Which ones do you want to discard? What will it be like to engage in life differently?

Reflecting on all aspects of yourself as it relates to anxiety will elicit insight and awareness. It will bring to the surface the reality of anxiety’s debilitating effect. And at the same time, it will instill hope and motivation for growth.

If you’re interested in working through anxiety with a therapist, I’m here for you! Reach out to me here to get started!

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About the Author: Stephanie Gilbert
I am a mental health therapist licensed in both Washington, DC, and Maryland. Additionally, I am a Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional. I specialize in working with teenagers and young adults, primarily those struggling with anxiety. I utilize techniques from CBT and ACT appraoches, but I modify my work to best suit the needs of my clients. I strongly believe in the rapport-building process and feel that a positive, trusting relationship is ultimately the key to growth. I have worked in this field for almost 10 years in a variety of roles and settings. My experience includes providing direct therapy services, mediating crisis situations, and administering neuropsychological assessments of clients for schools, homes, community-based organizations, and group practices. I have also supervised interns and other mental health professionals. I earned a Master of Science degree in Clinical Psychology from Loyola University Maryland and a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Human Development from the University of Maryland Honors College.

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