This is a useful method when you feel anxiety escalating, and a perfect opportunity to practice your acceptance.
This is best said out loud if you’re able to, otherwise say it quietly or in your mind – you are talking to your anxiety, or your amygdala if you prefer:
“Hi anxiety, I can feel you, I know you’re there. I’m not afraid of you, and to prove it ’m giving you 30 seconds to do the absolute worst you can. I want you to make this [name the main symptom(s) you are experiencing] as bad as you possibly can – really go for it! But the rule is that if you cannot give me a full-on panic attack in 30 seconds then you lose.”
At this point you may think I’m mad – why would you want to invite something you want to avoid? The answer is simple, it’s the very avoidance or resistance that gives anxiety its power. By inviting it to throw everything it has at you you’re taking away that power.
Remember, what we resist persists, and anxiety is no exception.
So, to continue, you now begin your countdown:
“30, 29, 28…”
Make sure you count slowly, in seconds, and steadily. You must also do this with a genuine acceptance and lack of fear. If you do this but quietly hope a panic doesn’t come then it may well do because you’re resisting and adding to the fear.
When you get down below 10, start slowing down, you can even say things like, “come on anxiety, not much time left, give me everything you have!”
You want to goad it, really tease it, but you absolutely must genuinely mean what you are saying. Acceptance is by no means easy, but it is without doubt your single most powerful tool in overcoming anxiety disorder. In fact, without acceptance, recovery is almost impossible.
Finally, when you get to zero, you will feel relieved. Chances are, particularly the first few times you do this, the symptoms will get worse initially. This is where most people give up. Don’t, just continue, and it will improve.
Over time, and with practice, this will become easier and more effective. Ultimately you’ll get to the stage where you treat it like a game, you’ll even look forward to your next anxiety opportunity to try it out. That’s another reason why this is so powerful – instead of fearing your next ‘attack’ you are now almost looking forward to it because you have tools to use and you want to practice.
This is how resistance becomes acceptance without too much over-thinking.