Alycia Scott, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Five Questions to Ask When Anxiety Starts to Win

I work with a lot of people who often feel overwhelmed by moments of anxiety and fear. In these moments, they feel terrified at the thought of not knowing what’s going to happen next, are scared that they won’t be able to get through the anxious feelings, feel certain that the anxiety will never end, and feel absolutely paralyzed and helpless in the face of the anxiety. Lately, I’ve been talking to many of my clients about how to find a way through that anxiety, when it feels most impossible, when it seem like it’s going to consume everything in its path—when it seems like it’s going to win.

Did you notice I said we talk about how to find a way through the anxiety? Not around it or away from it. Through it. This is the key.

Many times when we feel anxious or scared, our immediate response is to say “I don’t like this, I don’t want to feel this way, I can’t feel this way, how do I get rid of this feeling!?” But this is the wrong question to be asking in these moments. 

In my clinical work, and in my life, I am guided by a belief that emotions and feelings, including anxiety and fear, are always giving us important information. Our feelings are always telling us something we need to know. Our feelings are a friend tapping us on the shoulder, saying “Hey, I think maybe you need to look over here? Something’s up, maybe take a look?”

So, next time you feel that pit in your stomach, that feeling of vague, all-consuming dread, that tension and fear that you can’t quite shake, that constant stream of worry that keeps you up at night, I encourage you to try asking a different question than “How do I get rid of this?”. Try these questions instead:

  1. Am I predicting/fortunetelling/mind-reading right now?

  2. What do I know to be true?

  3. What do I need right now?

  4. What can I do right now?

  5. What does my body need right now?

Stay tuned for more about how to answer each of these questions in a way that helps you to use your anxiety as a starting point to check in with yourself, bring yourself back to the present moment and the power you have in that moment, take your power back from the anxiety and move toward feeling more in control of what happens next.

Questions, comments, thoughts? Feel free to comment below!

(Note: the information provided here or in the comments below is for informative purposes only and does not constitute psychological treatment or care. If you are experiencing a crisis or are in danger, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.)