I think that a lot of times when we think of managing our anxiety we tend to focus mainly on coping skills and techniques. This is an important part, but I think it’s only a part of the solution. A lot of our best anxiety-management energy can also go into a lifestyle that prevents anxiety before it even starts, as well as to resolving the issues that are causing us anxiety.
So I see anxiety management as being comprised of these three categories: Coping, Lifestyle, and Problem Solving. Coping involves ways that you deal with the stressors that you can’t change, which is where we tend to focus. The Lifestyle category has to do with how you live in such a way as to avoid some anxiety but also make you more resilient against the unavoidable anxiety, and a little bit of this type of prevention can go a long way. And the Problem Solving category has to do with solving the problems that are causing you stress now or are going to cause you stress in the near future.
To illustrate the difference, think of the vehicle that you drive. The Lifestyle category would be the routine and preventative maintenance that keeps your car running and makes it less likely to break down. You get the oil changed regularly, keep your other fluids topped off, rotate the tires on schedule, and generally make sure to keep your car serviced. Problem Solving would be having your car repaired when the inevitable does happen and it does break down, in spite of even the best preventative maintenance. If it breaks you fix it. If you get a flat tire you change the tire, if you run out of gas you get more. Coping would be how you make due without your car while it is in the process of getting fixed, how you deal with the situation. You get a ride, borrow a car, get an Uber, have other people run certain errands for you, and probably go out less. Or learn how to ride a bicycle.
I would like to talk about the Lifestyle category because a lot of important preventative work can be done there, but since there’s a lot to be said about that topic alone I will have to save that for a future post…