Imagine you’ve just settled into bed. You feel ready to drift off to sleep when your mind starts to race. Did I remember to feed the cat? Will he get fat if I feed him twice by accident? Can cats get diabetes? While this is a funny example, if you’ve ever been sucked into a destructive spiral of worry, then you understand what anxiety feels like. For some, it is merely annoying, but for many it can be overwhelming and debilitating.
If you live with fear and anxiety, you are not alone. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S.—more than 50 million people have been diagnosed with anxiety at some point throughout their lives. Thankfully, Friedemann Schaub, MD, PhD, gives anxiety sufferers a whole new way of looking at and addressing their disorder in his book (Electronic University, 2012).
One of the simplest yet most effective techniques for combatting a limiting belief is to replace it with a new, empowering one. In The Fear and Anxiety Solution: A Breakthrough Process for Healing and Empowerment with Your Subconscious Mind, Dr. Schaub outlines three steps to take if you want to establish a new core belief:
Step 1: Define a new core belief
A few general guidelines:
- The new belief needs to stated in the affirmative not the negative. “I am at ease” is an example of a phrase stated in the affirmative. In contrast, “I don’t have anxiety” is negative, and will not help you to adopt a new belief—your subconscious mind will ignore the “not” in “don’t,” and create more anxiety for you to overcome.
- Just because you state something in a positive way, affirmative phrases like “I am good enough” or “I am safe” can also be ineffective. Sometimes these phrases sound too similar to your old belief. Other times they may bring up questions such as “Am I really good enough?” or “Safe from what?” These only feed fear and anxiety.
- A new belief is best stated in the present tense rather than in the future tense. Telling yourself, “I will be calm and confident,” postpones the realization of this belief to the indefinite future. “I am calm and confident,” places the belief in the here and now.
- Make the belief short and succinct. Long, drawn-out sentences often lack punch and are hard to remember.
Step 2: See it, feel it, believe it
- Create a picture of the new you. Imagine yourself as the person who embodies the qualities of the new belief—for example, someone who is peaceful, confident, energized, and empowered […] You might picture your future self in a new office, on a Hawaiian beach, or at an award ceremony surrounded by friends cheering you on.
- Entice the senses. What will you see, hear, smell, and taste when you are your empowered self? What about your body posture and facial expression? […] Imagine looking into the mirror and seeing your face lit up with a big smile. You’re standing tall and straight, but at the same time you’re relaxed and comfortable in your own skin.
- Energize the new you with emotions. How will you feel when you’re the person you see on your inner screen? […] No matter how great your intentions, new thoughts are more likely to be accepted by your subconscious if you can associate them with how you will feel when the new paradigm becomes your reality. This will create a positive emotional connection to your desired outcome and provide your subconscious with the energy needed to create your dream.
Step 3: Collect supportive evidence
The greatest obstacle between an idea and its execution is doubt […] If you alleviate the doubt, your subconscious is more likely to release an old belief and replace it with the new, desired one. The best way to remove doubt is to collect convincing evidence that supports your new idea. This will show that you possess the potential and resources to become the new (more empowered), self you envision.
- Write down ten things you’ve accomplished in your life, ten skills and talents that you have, and ten times when you’ve solved a problem or overcame adversity. If listing ten things in each category seems like too many, you’re probably being far too critical and harsh with yourself. Be as generous and open-minded with yourself as you would be with someone you love and care about.
- Ask some friends or loved ones what they appreciate about you. Don’t be too shy to ask. You aren’t fishing for compliments—you’re looking for objective input that can be used to counteract moments of doubt.
- Meditate and connect with your inner being. Shine a light on your true potential by picturing your new, more-empowered essence. Get in touch with your relaxed, self-assured nature. Meditate on this.
It is human nature to doubt yourself and act fearful rather than confident. But if you work on establishing new core beliefs, you will start to conquer the negative thoughts, which are making you sick and paralyzed, and keeping you from reaching your full potential.
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Adapted from The Fear and Anxiety Solution: A Breakthrough Process for Healing and Empowerment with Your Subconscious Mind by Friedemann Schaub, MD, PhD. Copyright 2012 Friedemann Schaub. Published by Sounds True.